SINGAPORE - The Maintenance of Parents Act has proven useful over the years, but 11 years have passed since the last amendment. A work group has now been formed to further strengthen it to meet the future needs of the elderly and community.
The Act provides elderly people who are unable to maintain themselves adequately with a legal channel to seek maintenance from their children.
The nine-member work group is led by Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng, and focus group discussions and an online survey will be conducted in January to consult the public and stakeholders.
The tabling of a Private Member's Bill to amend the Act is targeted for the end of this year, said the secretariat to the work group on Friday (Jan 7).
The Act was last amended in 2010, through a Private Member's Bill tabled in Parliament by Mr Seah. The key amendment then was to establish a conciliation-first approach to resolve maintenance disputes.
Since March 2011, it has been mandatory for the elderly to seek conciliation with their children at the Office of the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents (CMP) prior to filing for a maintenance order at the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents.
The statement noted that the conciliation approach has seen positive results as the number of cases of elderly parents who eventually filed for maintenance orders has dropped.
It has decreased from a three-year average of 170 between 2008 and 2010 to 86 from 2011 to 2013.
It has remained stable at about 30 cases each year since 2017.
"The decline can be attributed to the enhanced conciliation process at CMP, which has achieved a settlement rate of about 90 per cent out of over 2,000 applications received since March 2011," said the statement.
Mr Seah said the Act provides a safety net for a small category of needy and neglected parents to claim maintenance when filial piety fails.
"From my interactions with families over the years, I am happy to note that most children support their elderly parents out of love and appreciation... But there is a small number who do not, for various reasons," he added.
He said the Act has enabled deserving parents to secure the needed maintenance from their children, who have the capacity to provide it but are not doing so.
The other work group members are Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai, MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling, Radin Mas MP Melvin Yong, Marine Parade GRC MP Fahmi Aliman, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Ng Ling Ling, Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira, Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua and Nee Soon GRC MP Carrie Tan.
Ms Tin said that over the next month, the work group will be reaching out to various groups of citizens including elderly parents, adult children and youth to gain a more current understanding of Singaporeans' family values and position on the principles underlying the Act.
She added that views from relevant social and community agencies will be sought.
The work group will be working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Alliance for Action to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relationships, which is looking into the support for families with early risks, such as couples who wed before turning 21, and assistance for couples who are parenting together, among other concerns.
Members of the public keen to participate in the focus group discussions may indicate their interest at this link.