SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will provide S$6 million in funding each year to bolster help for those affected by family violence.
It will also set up two new Child Protection Specialist Centres, in a bid to provide seamless and intensive treatment programmes for children at moderate risk of abuse.
Minister of State for Social and Family Development, Halimah Yacob, made the announcement on Thursday at the National Family Violence Networking System Symposium.
The funding will be used for the three currently operational Family Violence Specialist Centres, and the two new Child Protection Specialist Centres, which are expected to be operational by the first quarter of 2013.
The centres will see a range of services available for children who are at moderate risk, but not for cases where they are experiencing excessive abuse.
High—risk cases will continue to be served by MSF’s child protection services.
Mdm Halimah said: "In our view, these kinds of cases are better served ... at the community level, rather than being escalated to Child Protection Services and other agencies, which may not be very helpful to the children in particular.
"What these Child Protection Specialist Centres would do will be to provide counselling and casework —— meaning the people who are trained will work with the child, with the family within the community, and they can also follow—up with home visits and so on, because it’s sited within the community, and it’s in a very non—threatening environment —— that is very important."
The Child Protection Specialist Centres are one of the recommendations of last year’s Child Protection Review Report, and experts have welcomed such facilities, saying it will provide a more holistic solution to address the needs of vulnerable children.
Dr Alvin Liew, consultant at the Institute of Mental Health’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said: "Having a specialist centre has a lot of benefits because in being a specialist centre, we can get together all the different health care workers (who’re) helping the child.
"It’s not just psychiatrists, it’s not just medical social workers. It’ll be child protection officers, family service centres, medical social workers, psychologists and everything.
"So having the ability to concentrate all these different groups of people into one centre, we can have a very holistic way of looking at a problem. It’s not working in silo, in particular, but having a perspective from different people, sometimes discussing disagreements and coming up with the best plan that is most suitable for the child."
Mdm Halimah said the ministry is also focusing on public education and raising awareness. These include getting victims and perpetrators of family abuse to seek help early, and getting the community’s involvement.
She said: "I don’t believe that, especially in cases where there is prolonged episode of violence, that nobody hears, nobody sees, nobody knows about it. That is impossible. Within the community, neighbours, friends, family members, somebody must know.
"And so we must stop that conspiracy of silence. In doing that, it does not mean that you are a bad person, you’re breaking up the family. No. The support the centres give —— is not to break up the family, it’s in fact the opposite —— (is) to try to keep the family together."
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