Capabilities continue to be strengthened to assist victims of sexual and family violence: MSF

The Ministry of Social and Family Development will ensure the Family Violence Specialist Centres have the resources to manage their caseload. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - More is being done to help social service agencies and other community partners detect and support those experiencing family and sexual violence, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling told Parliament on Wednesday (Jan 12).

Besides working to deepen the capabilities of the three Family Violence Specialist Centres (FVSCs) here to support all those who experience any form of violence, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will ensure the FVSCs have the resources to manage their caseload, said Ms Sun.

Responding to questions by MPs on the current capability and capacity of Singapore's social services system to support survivors of family and sexual violence with their recovery, Ms Sun said MSF works closely with the FVSCs to help survivors, such as to apply for personal protection orders (PPO), facilitate alternative safe accommodation and with their longer-term needs.

Two of the FVSCs - Care Corner Project StART and the Pave Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre - are already able to provide comprehensive social and emotional support, such as counselling, for survivors of all forms of intra- and extra-familial violence, she noted.

MSF is working with TRANS SAFE, the third FVSC, so that it can provide similar comprehensive support to survivors of sexual harassment and violence in the second half of this year, she added.

Ms Sun noted that more than 1,100 staff and volunteers from the public and private sectors including educational institutions, grassroots and religious organisations were provided with Family Violence Awareness Training last year.

She added that the MSF will continue to expand that outreach to more organisations and partners.

The ministry is also rolling out a new initiative to deploy specially trained professionals to each of the FVSCs and Pave so that they can more effectively work with both survivors and perpetrators, said Ms Sun. The Straits Times reported on Monday that this will be rolled out over the next 12 to 24 months.

The experts will help address trauma and mental health concerns, assess and intervene to identify and address risk factors linked to perpetrators' abusive behaviour, and work with social workers to engage in safety planning for survivors.

Collectively, this will help reduce the risk of repeated violence, said Ms Sun.

Ms Carrie Tan (Nee Soon GRC) asked about the availability of additional resources to help ease the workload on professionals at the front lines.

"I think the practical consideration is that when social workers are overwhelmed counsellors overwhelmed, therapists are overwhelmed, they're not in the best space to hold space for their clients. So we need to ensure that there is adequate resourcing and adequate manpower," Ms Tan said.

Ms Sun said MSF constantly monitors the caseload being reported by the FVSCs and is ready to increase resourcing if needed.

According to the Task Force on Family Violence Report, there were 4,574 inquiries about family violence received by centres that specialise in handling such cases in financial year 2020, a 57 per cent increase from the 2,906 inquiries received two years prior.

These centres saw their actual cases handled increase by a quarter to 1,103 cases over the same period.

"The FVSCs regularly report case numbers to the MSF, and we monitor to ensure that they are able to manage their caseload," she said.

She added: "When necessary, the MSF is prepared to increase the capacity of the FVSCs as a whole, to be able to effectively help survivors and perpetrators of family violence."

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