Social workers lauded for helping to curb child abuse

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee (standing, seventh from right) at a carnival in Our Tampines Hub yesterday to celebrate Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre's fifth anniversary.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee (standing, seventh from right) at a carnival in Our Tampines Hub yesterday to celebrate Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre's fifth anniversary.ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS CHONG

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.

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

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 yesterday at an event commemorating Big Love's fifth anniversary.

In his speech, Mr Lee, the guest of honour at the event, 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 that child abuse in families is on the rise in Singapore.

The centre has seen the overall numbers of abuse by a family member climb to 367 cases between April last year and March this year, up from 252 cases in the period from April 2016 to March last year, and 177 cases in the corresponding 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 with 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 held at Our Tampines Hub yesterday, 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 to not just keep children safe now, but also prevents 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2018, with the headline 'Social workers lauded for helping to curb child abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe