Elder abuse on the rise, but no increase in higher-risk cases: Sun Xueling

The Ministry of Social and Family Development has stepped up efforts to raise greater awareness of elder abuse. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: PIXABAY

SINGAPORE - Cases of abuse involving vulnerable adults aged 65 years and above have been rising steadily in recent years, and are now a key issue at the family service centres, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling.

In 2019, there were 232 cases, 2020 saw 283 cases, and the figure rose to 338 cases in 2021, said Ms Sun in response to a question from Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) in Parliament on Monday (April 4).

But higher-risk cases of elder abuse, neglect or self-neglect did not appear to have increased, she added. There were 85 such cases in 2019, 71 in 2020, and 39 in the first nine months of 2021.

Higher-risk cases are typically handled by the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Adult Protective Service (APS) or by community-based Family Violence Specialist Centres and Pave Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, elder abuse cases investigated by MSF's APS did not increase, and cases taken up by Pave and the Family Violence Specialist Centres fell, Ms Sun said.

To combat the overall rise in cases, MSF has stepped up efforts to raise greater awareness of elder abuse and neglect, for instance, during World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 each year, she added.

These public education efforts are targeted at the elderly, their caregivers, neighbours, volunteers, grassroots leaders and community organisations, with the objective of improving the understanding of elder abuse survivors, and encouraging early reporting and help-seeking.

The efforts, which were part of MSF's Break the Silence campaign, sought to inform the public on what to do if they encounter instances of family violence.

Ms Sun noted that elders in the community were less visible during the pandemic, particularly during the circuit breaker in 2020.

During this time, APS and its partners increased the frequency of check-ins on the more vulnerable clients through a combination of phone and video calls, and home visits for cases assessed to be more urgent or high-risk.

They continue to do such home visits and check on the elders through video calls, sometimes with the help of neighbours, to ensure the safety of these vulnerable persons, Ms Sun said.

She added that MSF will continue to work closely with sector partners, hospitals, the police and the courts to detect cases of elder abuse, neglect and self-neglect to ensure victims receive timely support.

Anyone who knows or suspects that an elderly person is being abused should call the 24-hour National Anti-Violence Helpline on 1800-777-0000.

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