Social workers hailed for helping abused children as Big Love centre marks 5th year

SINGAPORE - To most children, items like hangers and cloth rags are just everyday household objects.

But for two brothers, these were things to be feared.

The boys, aged four and six, were beaten daily with such items by their parents.

They both have global developmental delay and their parents thought this was the appropriate way to discipline their special needs boys.

But thanks to the intervention of Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre, the two boys are now safer.

A social worker from Big Love, which is a programme by charity Montfort Care, stepped in for 10 months to educate the parents on positive ways of parenting the siblings by home-based coaching.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee told the story of these two boys on Sunday (Oct 21) at an event commemorating Big Love's fifth anniversary.

In his speech, Mr Lee expressed his gratitude to front-line social workers and professionals like those at Big Love.

"Your work is not easy. You have to engage families and help them to understand why a certain situation can compromise a child's safety. You have to maintain, at the same time, trust of these families and reassure them that your ultimate goal is to keep their families together," he said.

Earlier this month, Big Love said child abuse in families is on the rise in Singapore.

The centre has seen the overall number of cases of abuse by a family member climb to 367 between April 2017 and March 2018, up from 252 in the April 2016 to March 2017 period, and 177 in the same period before that.

Big Love's child abuse statistics, while separate from those of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), are in line with the overall increase the ministry has seen.

MSF figures for intra-familial abuse involving children aged under 16 showed 894 cases last year, compared to 873 in 2016 and 551 in 2015.

Last month, the Penal Code review committee proposed changes to the law to mete out tougher penalties to child abusers.

At the carnival on Sunday held at Our Tampines Hub, Big Love also announced the collection of more than 12,000 pledges from people to protect children from abuse and neglect.

Mr Lee commended Big Love for its work in reaching out to more than 1,000 children in the five years that it has been in service.

He highlighted how its work helps not just in keeping children safe now, but also in preventing abuse from occurring in future generations.

"Research has shown that victims of child abuse suffer trauma, do not function well socially, and have a higher likelihood of becoming abusive themselves when, in turn, they become parents," he said.

"But with your intervention, you reduce the downstream effects of child abuse, and this is how we all seek to break the cycle of abuse."