SINGAPORE - More people are reporting possible incidents of family violence as the Government ramps up efforts to raise awareness and detection of the issue, including training pharmacy staff to detect signs of abuse in customers.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development's Adult and Child Protective services saw a 25 per cent increase in the monthly average number of inquiries post-circuit breaker, in the months of June to September, compared with April and May.
Explaining the reason for the increase, Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Social and Family Development as well as Education, on Monday (Nov 23) said that the public is more vigilant.
But she noted that the number of incidents investigated remains at a monthly average of 118 from January to September this year.
Speaking at the National Family Violence Networking System Conference held online, Ms Sun also announced that MSF is partnering Unity pharmacies to detect signs and symptoms of family violence.
It will train 46 staff of the FairPrice-owned chain, which has more than 60 stores around Singapore.
On Tuesday, Unity pharmacists will be trained to better identify possible victims of family violence.
"This can help widen and strengthen our community detection efforts and provide additional touchpoints to direct potential victims to help channels," said Ms Sun, addressing about 500 experts and practitioners from various sectors who also discussed collaborative approaches to family protection at the conference.
Besides Unity, MSF has also partnered religious organisations such as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and Presbyterian Church in Singapore to conduct training on family violence awareness.
Ms Sun said the ministry has also worked with businesses to conduct outreach on the topic.
During the extended circuit breaker, which started in April, the newly formed inter-agency Taskforce on Family Violence noted that individuals and families may have experienced more stress, which could lead to violence.
"While there has been great emphasis on how Covid-19 has impacted our work, we must recognise that the issue of family violence goes beyond the Covid-19 pandemic," said Ms Sun.
The task force, which was formed in February, had its first virtual focus group discussion in August, where more than 40 community partners came together to discuss tackling family violence beyond Covid-19.
"Some of the facts and areas that have been discussed relate to the importance of looking at family structures, living environments, financial stressors and also the ability of individuals to manage conflict," said Ms Sun.
A second focus group discussion is being planned for the first quarter of 2021.
"We will be taking a deeper dive into some of these topics that have been raised. What's important is that we look at upstream factors, because we want to prevent violence before it occurs," she added.
Co-chairmen of the focus group workstream - United Women Singapore president Georgette Tan, Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) head of direct services Lorraine Lim and Casa Raudha Women Home manager Zaharah Ariff - also attended the conference on Monday.
They shared their organisations' initiatives to tackle family violence.
United Women Singapore has a GenSafe Workplace Programme, meant to support employees who may be victims of abuse.
EtonHouse International Education Group will be sending interested managerial staff to undergo a foundational programme by United Women Singapore this December. If well-received, the company will open sign-ups to all its 750 staff.
Among other things, the programme aims to improve workplace responses to support employees impacted by domestic violence.
"In the coming year, we hope to reach out to another 100 businesses in Singapore, ranging from finance, pharmaceutical, technology and consumer industries," said Ms Tan.
SCWO will on Nov 30 launch one-stop help website ACT Against Violence to provide information for women of all ages coping with violence, while Casa Raudha is currently holding a week-long walkathon that began last Saturday to raise awareness on domestic violence.
Correction note: This article has been updated for accuracy.