Recommendations by task force on family violence to be rolled out in 1 to 3 years: Masagos

SINGAPORE – The Government has accepted all the recommendations made by a task force tackling family violence, said Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli on Thursday (Oct 28).

He said the recommendations would be rolled out over the next one to three years, with three of them implemented first: raising awareness of the issue, enhancing marriage preparation courses and beefing up the National Anti-Violence Helpline.

Mr Masagos was speaking at a visit to Fei Yue Family Service Centre in Choa Chu Kang, where he also attended a closed-door dialogue with staff members involved in tackling family violence.

Of the recommendations, he said: “We (also) have to look at some of the areas we can enhance only through legislation.

“Legislation will take some time – these are areas where we need to pass new laws or amend existing laws, and also have more collaborations with agencies, like the police, for example, in addressing family violence. This might take one or two years.”

Some recommendations, such as providing institutionalised care for perpetrators, would need even more discussion and collaboration, and will be among the last to be rolled out, said Mr Masagos.

In September, the Taskforce on Family Violence released a report with 16 recommendations after examining more than 3,600 family violence cases and conducting focus group discussions with those involved in the work, among other efforts.

The recommendations are meant to make it easier for victims of family violence to get help and better protect themselves against their abusers.

They included letting third parties, such as the director-general of social welfare, apply for personal protection orders (PPOs) for those experiencing violence even without their consent, if the victims are at risk of serious harm and under undue influence from their loved ones not to apply for a PPO.

A PPO is a court order restraining a person from committing violence against a family member.

The task force had also called for stronger enforcement actions against perpetrators who flout rehabilitation orders.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Mr Masagos said: “The task force’s thoughtful report is a good example of what we can achieve together through partnership between community partners and the Government in tackling family violence.”

He added that in the near term, the authorities will also be training police officers to better address the victims’ needs and enhance the care provided to them.

The task force was set up in February 2020 and is co-chaired by Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling and Minister of State for Home Affairs Faishal Ibrahim.

On Thursday, Mr Masagos said that the National Anti-Violence Helpline, which was launched in February, would be enhanced.

The 24-hour hotline currently operates primarily in English but there is also Mandarin, Malay and Tamil-speaking professionals to speak to when necessary.

As at Aug 31, the helpline had received 5,300 calls.

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The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said it would be creating new modes of reporting family violence such as through mobile applications or live web chat by the second half of 2022.

MSF will be enhancing the Community Guardian App, first developed last year by Pave, a social service agency focused on addressing domestic violence. The ministry took over the operation of the app in October last year and will be integrating it with the hotline.

The app aims to empower grassroots leaders and volunteers to be first responders to reports of family violence and will be extended to more online platforms.

Mr Masagos also said that the ministry’s annual Break The Silence campaign to raise awareness about family violence would take place in November and that Ms Sun would share more details at a later date.

The agencies offering marriage preparation programmes will also be looking to target more vulnerable groups such as those under 21 or transnational couples, he said.

Ms Rachel Tan, head of the marriage support department at Fei Yue Community Services, said that the enhanced marriage preparation programme now includes content that focuses on the impact of adverse childhood experiences on adult life, as well as greater awareness of the risk of family violence.

She said: “Through that, we can also teach them some strategies and tips on how to enhance their marriage, for example, stress management – how they can practise self-care when they are at the heat of the moment and are very angry, (as well as) breathing and calming techniques.”

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