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AGENCIES STRIVE FOR BETTER COORDINATION TO ENHANCE PROTECTION FOR VICTIMS OF FAMILY VIOLENCE

To enhance the protection of victims of family violence, the Manual on the Integrated Management of Family Violence Cases in Singapore” has been revised to ensure better coordination across agencies and to create a more robust system that will offer timely protection and effective intervention for families at risk.

 

2          The Manual, first produced in 1999 and last reviewed in 2003, spells out the protocols of agencies[1] that are involved in the management of family violence cases. These agencies play important roles in protecting, intervening, and subsequently rehabilitating and supporting families experiencing violence. The revised manual allows for better coordination across these agencies, so as to offer protection and effective intervention for both victims and perpetrators of family violence.  It now includes new chapters by the Community Court, Schools and Polyclinics as they too are important parts of the Family Violence Networking System.  (Please refer to Annex A for information on the Family Violence Networking System.)

 

3          The Manual is the outcome of collaboration among many agencies committed to ending family violence in Singapore and to ensuring that victims and families are both protected and rehabilitated. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports launched the revised Manual at the 9th National Family Violence Networking Symposium this morning.

 

4          Using a real case study in his opening address, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan highlighted three key guiding principles for family protection work. He emphasised the need for professionals to recognise and preserve the sanctity of the family and its capacity to provide for its members, the need to ensure client-centred and holistic intervention, and strong inter-agency collaboration. 

 

9th Symposium Focused on Vulnerable Adult Protection

 

5          The symposium, with the theme “Looking Beyond Differences: Protecting Vulnerable Adults from Family Violence” focused attention on protection for elderly and persons with disabilities. These are relatively new areas in the discussion on family violence. The symposium aims to bring together professionals from multiple disciplines to share knowledge and best practices in vulnerable adult protection work.

 

6          The keynote speaker was Mr Paul Greenwood, Deputy District Attorney of San Diego, USA, who is an expert in elder abuse prosecution. Other notable speakers included Dr Scott Modell of California State University, an expert on disability abuse and Mr Charles Chiu, Chairperson of the Guardianship Board of Hong Kong. More information on the speakers can be found in Annex B.

 

Family Violence Dialogue Group Appreciation Award

7          The Family Violence Dialogue Group Appreciation Awards were presented to 5 individuals at the Symposium.  The Award recognises the importance of interagency cooperation, victim-centred approaches and outstanding practices in the intervention work with families experiencing violence.  The list of winners is at Annex C.

 

8          Please refer to Annex D for information on elder abuse and other statistical information.

 

 

 

[1] The agencies involved include the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, the Singapore Police Force, Family and Juvenile Court, Community Court, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, National Council of Social Service and the Singapore Prison Service

 

 

Issued by:       

Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports

20 Oct 2009

********

For further information, please contact:

Ms Nikole Lee

Manager

Communications and International Relations

Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports

DID: 6354 8305

HP: 9694 2089

Email: Nikole_Lee@mcys.gov.sg


 

Annex A

 

National Family Violence Networking System

 

Family violence is a multifaceted and protracted problem which requires a multi-disciplinary approach. The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) works closely with our partners to provide a comprehensive range of assistance to those experiencing family violence and to link them to resources that would help them break free from their cycle of violence.

 

2          The National Family Violence Networking System was put in place by MCYS in 1996 to complement the legal provisions and to integrate the management of family violence by forming linkages between the various service providers. Partners include the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Police, Family and Juvenile Court, Community Court, National Council of Social Services, Schools, Hospitals, Polyclinics, the Singapore Prison Service, and social service agencies including Family Service Centres (FSCs) and Crisis Shelters.

 

 

National Family Violence Networking Symposium

 

3          The National Family Violence Networking Symposium is an annual forum co-organised by MCYS and the Police under the auspices of the Family Violence Dialogue Group. It is a platform for professionals from multiple disciplines to share knowledge and best practices. In addition, it provides an opportunity for agencies dealing with family violence cases to strengthen partnerships.

 

4          The theme of this year’s Symposium is Looking Beyond Differences: Protecting Vulnerable Adults from Family Violence. The programme includes a plenary session comprising of two overseas speakers and two local speakers, facilitated by a local professional. The concurrent workshops in the afternoon are conducted by six expert practitioners. The workshops will discuss the management of elder and disabilities abuse, the roles of different agencies in Singapore and also focus on the best techniques for professionals to use when engaging victims with disabilities and elderly victims of family violence. The Symposium will also focus on the need to utilise a holistic approach: besides rehabilitating perpetrators of violence and counselling victims, it also looks to easing caregiver stress and raising public awareness of resources available for help for both caregiver and patient so as to minimise the incidence of violence.

 

 

 

 


 

Annex B

 

Speakers’ CVs and Abstracts

 

Mr Paul Greenwood

Deputy District Attorney, San Diego, USA

 

 

Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood has been a lawyer for 30 years. He was first a barrister and then a solicitor in England for 13 years. After relocating to San Diego in 1991, he passed the California Bar and joined a civil law firm for two years before joining the District Attorney's (DA) Office in 1993. For the past thirteen years, Mr Greenwood has headed the Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit.  Under his leadership, the Unit has grown from a staff of two to a team of twelve. Mr Greenwood has also been involved in teaching most of his adult life. He was a professor at the University of San Diego (USD) for their paralegal program. He taught in Kenya for two years and at various colleges in both England and California. He is currently an instructor with California DA's Association and the National DA's Association.  In 1999 California Lawyer magazine named Mr Greenwood as one of their top 20 lawyers of the year.

 

In 2006, Mr Greenwood was honoured by the San Diego County Bar Association with their annual award for his outstanding service as a public attorney.  In the following year, he received a Professional Leadership Award from the Elder Financial Protection Network.  In 2008, Mr Greenwood was further recognized by the San Diego County Bar Association for his commitment to civility, integrity and professionalism.

 

Mr Greenwood has prosecuted over 300 felony cases of both physical and financial elder abuse. He has also prosecuted nine murder cases and seven of them had obtained a first degree murder conviction.

 

 

ABSTRACT

 

Elder Abuse: One Prosecutor’s Perspective

 

In this presentation, Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood will draw upon his 13 years’ experience of prosecuting elder physical abuse, neglect and financial exploitation cases in California. He will illustrate how the Elder Abuse Unit, under his leadership, has drawn national and international attention.


 

Mr Greenwood will highlight some of the early challenges that he faced and common misconceptions that often prohibit the successful investigation and prosecution of elder abuse crimes. Besides emphasizing the importance of a multi-hands’ approach especially with agencies such as Adult Protective Services, he will illustrate a few graphic case studies which often involved family violence.

 

At the session, the need to tackle elder abuse cases with innovative and multi-disciplinary remedies will be reinforced. Mr Greenwood’s sharing will also comprise successful initiatives such as an Elder Death Review team, and further illustrate how elderly victims can be highly effective witnesses in the court room.

 

 

 

Scott J. Modell, Ph.D.

Professor

Director, Autism Centre for Excellence

California State University, Sacramento

 

 

Dr. Modell is a Professor and Director of the Autism Centre for Excellence at California State University, Sacramento.  He is an expert in disability etiology, characteristics, interview techniques, and abuse.  He is widely recognized at the local, state, and national level for the provision of community-based services for individuals with disabilities. He has over 100 refereed published articles and presented abstracts at state, national and international conferences on disability related issues. His current research focus is on autism and dependent adults and their interactions with the criminal justice system. 

 

Dr. Modell has been an invited speaker for a number of conferences for law enforcement throughout the country.  He has taught for the California District Attorney's Association (CDAA), National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission and the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA).  He has received national recognition for his work in the area of interview techniques for individuals with developmental disabilities. 

 

Dr. Modell currently consults with multiple law enforcement agencies regarding dependent adult abuse and as an expert witness.  He is also a Core Advisory Team Member on Training Grants to Stop Abuse and Sexual Assault of Older Individuals or Individuals with Disabilities for the CDAA and is a member of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities, Think Tank:  Abuse of Victims with Disabilities. 

 


ABSTRACT

 

Overview of Disability Abuse: The U.S. Experience

 

Studies have long established that people with developmental or other disabilities are disproportionately victimized in the United States.  One study found that among adults with developmental disabilities, as many as 83% of females and 32% of males are the victims of sexual assault.  Perhaps most astonishingly, 97%-99% of abusers are known and trusted by these victims.  Victimization rates for persons with disabilities is highest for sexual assault (more than 10 times as high) and robbery (more than 12 times as high). 

 

There are a number of factors related to the susceptibility to abuse for individuals with disabilities.  In addition, there are many existing significant barriers, both real and perceived, that affect vulnerable adults and their interaction with the criminal justice system.  These barriers include societal perception of disability, use of appropriate language and current realities for adults and children with disabilities. 

 

This presentation will highlight the factors associated with increased susceptibility to abuse for individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, and communication disorders as well as identify significant barriers that impact vulnerable children and adults.

 

 

 

Mr Charles Chiu Chung-yee

Chairperson

Guardianship Board in Hong Kong

 

 

Mr Charles Chiu Chung-yee has been practicing law in Hong Kong as a solicitor since 1981. He was the senior partner of his law firm M/S Charles Chiu & Co until his appointment to head up the Guardianship Board in 2003.  He was first appointed a lawyer-member in 2002 before his appointment as the Chairperson of Guardianship Board of Hong Kong in February 2003.      He is the Chairman of Haven of Hope Hospital of Hong Kong and a member of Clinical Ethics Committee of Hong Kong Hospital Authority.

 

 


ABSTRACT

 

Protecting Elders – Hong Kong Guardianship

 

The Guardianship Board of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal empowered to make orders appointing guardians for adults who are unable to make decisions on substantial proportion of matters of their personal circumstances.  These include welfare, residence, medical or financial affairs of the mentally incapacitated persons.

 

The Board was established on 1 February 1999 under Part IVB of the Mental Health Ordinance (Cap 136).  The multi-disciplinary Board comprises the Chairperson and 57 volunteer members, including lawyers (Panel A), doctors, social workers, occupational therapist and clinical psychologists (Panel B) and persons having personal experience of giving care to the mentally incapacitated (Panel C).  It is supported by a Secretariat which includes the Chairperson, the Board Secretary and other staff.  The Chairperson is appointed by the Chief Executive of the HKSAR Government.

 

The aim of the adult guardianship regime is to protect and promote the interests of mentally incapacitated persons.  The development of the Board in the past ten years has shown that the Guardianship is predominantly serving elders (defined as persons at or above 60 years old) suffering from some form of mental incapacity.  In the past few years, the elderly constituted an average of 75.3% of applications for guardianship.

 

The Guardianship system is now accepted as a form of ready means to promote and protect the welfare of vulnerable people with cognitive deficits, especially against all kinds of abuses.  During the past 10 years, around 7% new applications each year were related to financial and associated abuses.  This presentation will highlight the role of the Guardianship Board in handling financial and other abuse cases of mentally incapacitated adults including an analysis of basic data as well as the collaboration with key stakeholders.  The future and challenges of the Board will also be discussed in the presentation.

 


 Annex C

 

Winners for Family Violence Dialogue Group Appreciation Award

 

 

About the Awards

 

1                    The Family Violence Dialogue Group Appreciation Awards were created to honour inter-agency recognition of individual and team contributions in the management of family violence cases. The Awards seek to inspire professionals to improve the quality of their contribution in family protection work.

 

2                    In line with this year’s theme, nominees this year had direct work experience with the elderly and adults with disabilities, and showed responsibility, consistency, integrity, commitment, and client-oriented work practices.

 

3                    This year, five individuals were awarded with the Family Violence Dialogue Group Appreciation Awards.

 

Ms Wilma Ng

 

4                    Ms. Wilma Ng is the Manager of Kheng Chiu Happy Lodge, a sheltered home. She has positioned her sheltered home as an invaluable resource in elder protection service in Singapore as she has chosen to offer shelter to elderly persons suffering abuse and neglect on a crisis basis. In opening her doors to all elderly persons in need, Ms. Ng has greatly enhanced elder protection work when immediate removal is necessary.

 

5                    Ms. Ng has also accepted elderly persons with special needs into her home despite the extra time and effort taken to accommodate them. For example, although her home’s guidelines restrict it to cater only to elderly persons with CAT 1 dementia, she once admitted a severely abused elderly person with CAT 2 dementia after checking that her medical staff could cope with the person’s needs. Another example would be her decision to admit a Malay elderly person who was partially blind. She assigned a buddy to him to ensure that he would be cared for, and ensured that all his meals were specially bought so that they would be Halal.

 

6                    In taking a personal interest in the residents of her sheltered home, particularly those who have been referred on a crisis basis, Ms. Ng takes it upon herself to regularly keep in contact with the social workers who have referred the elderly person to her home and to update them on the person’s situation. In serving with commitment and compassion, Ms. Ng has proven herself to always be ready to support elderly victims of family violence socially and emotionally.

 

Dr Thiow Boon Yin

 

7                    Dr Thiow Boon Yin is the General Practitioner of a clinic, My Doctor’s Place Pte Ltd, in Bedok. For four years, Dr. Thiow has been sensitive to the indicators of potential elderly abuse or neglect victims who visit her for consultations. When she suspects that there may be a situation of family violence in the home, she unhesitatingly refers patients to family violence specialist centre SAFE@TRANS for assistance. Once, when she came across an elderly person with dementia who was severely neglected, she went the extra mile to undertake a home visit to the elderly person’s rental flat to support the social workers in their assessment.

 

8                    Dr Thiow has also shown her commitment to elderly protection work in her willingness to conduct joint home visits with a team from SAFE@TRANS to assess clients’ health conditions and even to treat them for free. Once, in engaging an elderly person who was under difficult circumstances and unable to pay for medical aid, she provided him with free treatment for six months and kept him closely monitored of her own accord.

 

 Mr Edwin Quek

 

9                    Mr Quek is the Assistant Director of Lakeside Family Service Centre (FSC). In his eleven years of service, Mr Quek has paid detailed attention to family violence concerns. On his own initiative, Mr. Quek conducts periodic reviews of all family violence cases referred to him by the Police to check up on their case management process. He also personally alerts the Police when the possibility of violence recurrence is high so that the Police may closely monitor such cases and prevent escalation of violence in the home.

 

10               In one case, Mr Quek played a key role in its resolution. This case involved a man who was wheelchair-bound and whom needed financial assistance. His children had absolved all responsibility of him and, having physical disabilities as he is an amputee, it was difficult for him to find a job. Mr Quek helped in collaboration with the Police by contacting several of this man’s estranged children and holding a family conference. He also held a discussion with a medical social worker from the National University Hospital about the medical bills that the man owed. Eventually, the man was able to run an ice-kachang stall to support himself, with the assistance of his wife and youngest son.

 

11               Mr Quek also helped to streamline the processes between Lakeside FSC and the Police so that the referral process is expedited; as a result, the number of cases referred to Lakeside FSC increased by 30%. He also has held public education programs with the Jurong Family Violence Working Group and the Jurong West Neighbourhood Police Centre to raise awareness about family violence.  

 

Dr Sudha Nair

 

12               Dr Nair’s determination in dealing with a protracted family violence case illustrates her exemplary skills as a volunteer Senior Social Worker with Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence (PAVe). In this case, a severely abused woman, who had been blinded in one eye as a result of the abuse she had undergone from her male co-habitee, had suffered a psychological breakdown and refused to cooperate with police efforts to investigate into the situation.

 

13               Dr Nair spent several long hours patiently speaking with the woman suffering abuse, and eventually gained her trust and confidence through her tireless counselling. Eventually, her effort bore fruition and the woman was able to relate to the Police the years of abuse she had suffered. The offender was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.

 

14               After the offender was released, however, he moved back in with the woman and, once more, began to abuse her. The woman was again unreceptive to offers of help, but Dr Nair intervened and was able to coax the woman to speak up about the abuse she had undergone. The co-habitee was found to be guilty of physically assaulting the woman and imprisoned once more, due to Dr Nair’s perseverant efforts in aiding the police’s investigation. 

 

Mr Alvin Chua

 

15               Mr Chua is a Senior Social Worker at elder protection family violence specialist centre SAFE@TRANS. He takes a holistic, client-centric view in his case management approach and often incorporates the support of relevant agencies when handling complicated family violence cases. Consistently focused on his own professional development and offering steadfast support to junior social workers, Mr. Chua is a positive role model for his staff members.

 

16               Mr Chua goes the extra mile to ensure that his elderly clients have the necessary social support and that their interests are safeguarded. A particular case illustrates Mr Chua’s wholehearted commitment to the well-being of his clients. An elderly man from Hong Kong had been residing in Singapore with his step-daughter after his son had abandoned him. He owed a few years’ arrears to HDB and required financial assistance. The abandonment of his son had been very distressing to the man and he was not forthcoming to any assistance at first. However, Mr Chua’s unstinting efforts in continually trying to engage the man were rewarded: he accepted financial aid and medical help, and even opened up to Mr Chua as time went on. The man expressed a desire to return to Hong Kong. Undaunted, Mr Chua linked up with the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department and made arrangements for the elderly person to leave the country, even staying up until the wee hours of the morning until the elderly person boarded the flight.

 

17               Mr Chua’s wholehearted involvement in helping this elderly man and fulfilling the elderly man’s wishes illustrates his absolute dedication to his work.

 

 

 

  

 

Annex D

 

Statistics

 

A) Family Violence

 

            Under the Women's Charter, victims of family violence can apply for the Personal Protection Order (PPO) to restrain the abuser from using violence. Victims can also obtain a Domestic Exclusive Order (DEO) to obtain rights to exclusive occupation of the shared residence or a specific part of the shared residence. The number of applications for PPOs and DEOs has decreased from 2691 persons in 2005, 2,667 persons in 2006 to 2,554 persons in 2007.  Statistics over the three years indicated that spousal violence was the most widespread form of family violence with wives comprising 60% and husbands comprising 11% of total PPO applicants. 

 

2          The latest information on the overall applications of PPO in year 2008 can be found in the Subordinate Court's publication available online at  http://app.subcourts.gov.sg/Data/Files/File/AR_2008/SubCourtsAR08pdf.  Information on the management of family violence can also be found in the publication 'Protecting Families From Violence: The Singapore Experience' available online at http://app.mcys.gov.sg/web/serv_reports_faml.asp.

 

 

B) Elder Abuse

 

3          The number of reported complaints of alleged elder abuse[2] for the period 2004 to 2008 has been relatively stable.  Based on Jan to Dec 2008 statistics, elderly persons aged 80 years and above were most vulnerable to elder abuse.  More than 50% of the reported cases were females.

 

4          The most common type of elder abuse was physical abuse, neglect, and psychological abuse.

 

5          The majority of the alleged perpetrators were the victims’ sons and daughters.

 

 

 

Elder Protection

 

Legal Provisions

 

6          There are various legal provisions through which an elderly person who is abused can seek help.  The Maintenance of Parents Act serves as an avenue for the elderly to seek financial support from children who do not fulfill their filial responsibilities. 

 

7          Under the Women’s Charter, anyone (including an elderly person) who suffers physical, emotional or psychological abuse from a family member can apply for a Personal Protection Order from the Family Court. The Court can also make additional orders, including requiring individuals involved in family violence to attend mandatory counselling.  A breach of the Protection Order constitutes a seizable offence. 

 

Community Support

 

8          There is a robust protocol in place to manage elder abuse cases.  A victim of abuse can approach a social worker, the hospital, the police or the court.

 

9          Elder abuse cases may be referred to MCYS by various sources including concerned family members and members of the public. MCYS works closely with Promoting Alternatives to Violence (PAVe) and SAFE@TRANS to investigate and manage elder abuse cases. Under the protocol on family violence management, anyone who comes across an elderly who may be abused or neglected, can approach the Family Service Centres, PAVe and SAFE@TRANS for assistance. In cases of emergency, police assistance should be sought.  

 

 

 

Where to Seek Help

 

10        No one deserves to be abused. If you know someone in an abusive relationship, or are yourself affected, we encourage you to seek help early and call the ComCare Helpline at 1800-222-0000, the Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence (PAVe) at 6555 0390 or SAFE@TRANS at 6449 9088. In the case of an immediate threat to life, you should call the Police at 999. Members of the public can also find out more about abuse from http://www.family.gov.sg/stopfamilyviolence and www.mcys.gov.sg.

 

11        If cases of child abuse are suspected, please call the Child Protection Service Hotline at 1800-777 0000. Otherwise contact the Police or report the matter at a Neighbourhood Police Centre.

 

 

12        Members of the public can help by:

 

§         Acknowledging warning signs;

§         Providing a listening ear;

§         Being a source of support for friends in abusive relationships;

§         Encouraging or helping the victim to seek medical treatment; and

§         Encouraging and accompanying a friend in such situations to seek help at FSCs

 


 

 

[2] Elder abuse may take the following form – Physical, Psychological, Neglect, and Financial.

 

 

 

 


 

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