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Asian Family Conference

Inaugural Asian Family Conference

  • The inaugural Asian Family Conference brings together policy-makers, practitioners and academics to discuss emerging trends, policies and practices pertaining to changing family structures and ageing in Asian societies. The theme for this year's conference is Ageing Families in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities.
  • The Asian Family Conference incorporates the 3rd Asian Guardianship Conference, an annual event that shares best practices in policy, practice and research on guardianship-related matters.
  • Around 350 participants from East Asia and Singapore are expected to attend the 1-day conference. Highlights of the conference include keynote speeches by Ms Anne Hollonds, Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and Dr Vivian Lou, Director of the Sau Po Centre on Ageing, The University of Hong Kong. Ms Hollonds and Dr Lou will also take part in a panel discussion moderated by Professor Paulin Straughan, Professor of Sociology (Practice) and Dean of Students, Singapore Management University.
  • Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Desmond Lee, delivered the opening remarks to kick start the conference. In his speech, Minister Lee spoke about Singapore's pro-active approach towards ageing, and the challenges that seniors and their families can face in the event of the loss of mental capacity.
  • Minister Lee announced the pilot of a Community Kin Service, which serves to better support seniors who have lost mental capacity within the community. He also provided an update on the preparations of a Professional Deputies and Donees Scheme, which the amendment of the Mental Capacity Act in 2016 provided for.

Community Kin Service

  • MSF will be piloting the Community Kin Service, a new initiative which enables Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) to do more to support seniors who have lost mental capacity and do not have family support in the community.
  • VWOs currently provide support services to seniors through Senior Activity Centres (SACs) located in the community. These include services such as coordinating home care services for seniors, arranging for regular visits to their homes, and monitoring their medical appointments and medication.
  • Under the Community Kin service, VWOs can apply for a Court order allowing it to:

(i) Manage a fixed and periodic sum of their eligible clients' finances; and

(ii) Administer payment to service providers for their clients' personal, healthcare and household needs e.g. home medical and nursing care and groceries.

  • The service seeks to enable VWOs to better manage the day-to-day care of elderly clients who have lost mental capacity. As a safeguard, VWOs must provide annual reports to the OPG to account for the use of their clients' finances.
  • MSF will pilot the initiative with two VWOs - TOUCH Community Services and AMKFSC from early 2018. The pilot will test the service with clients of the VWOs who (i) are 60 and above, (ii) have no family support, and (iii) signs of declining mental capacity.

Mental Capacity Act

  • The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) was enacted in 2008 to protect the welfare and interests of individuals who lack mental capacity. The Act puts in place a legal framework for proxy decision-making where individuals above 21 years old may make an LPA, appointing person(s) they trust to be their donee to make decisions on their behalf when they lose mental capacity in the future.
  • For those who have lost mental capacity but did not appoint a donee, the MCA allows someone - such as a family member or a friend - to apply to court to be their deputy to make decisions on their behalf. 
  • There is an increasing number of elderly singles or elderly couples without children in Singapore, who wish to make an LPA, but do not have a strong family network to depend on. The concept of professional deputies and donees was introduced with the amendment of the MCA in 2016, and the following definitions and envisaged registration framework for professional deputies were laid out:
  • A professional deputy is someone who provides deputyship services for remuneration. He must be registered with the Public Guardian (PG), and must not be related to the person whom he is appointed to act for. They are likely to be lawyers, accountants, and healthcare and social service professionals.
  • The amendments had set the stage for the development of a registration framework for professional deputies, including the ability of PG to cancel the registration if certain events, such as bankruptcy, occurs.
  • A professional donee is someone who provides doneeship services for remuneration. He must not be related to the person whom he is appointed to act for.
  • There will be no registration framework for professional donees as they are chosen by the individual himself when he still has mental capacity.

Update on the Professional Deputies and Donees Scheme

  • An update on the preparations for a professional deputies and donees scheme was provided at the Asian Family Conference today. Minister Lee listed additional criteria that professionals must meet in order to qualify for the scheme. They include:

(i) Relevant experience with mental capacity cases, or at least a reasonable number of years of experience in their respective fields of work

(ii) No financial embarrassment e.g. not undischarged bankrupts and must have a good credit rating

(iii) Not be convicted of property offences or crimes against a person or public order, or be the subject of a civil judgement, involving a finding of breach of trust on the part of the defendant

  • MSF is working with Singapore University of Social Sciences to develop a certification course to train these professionals. The course will cover topics such as the duties and powers of a deputy under the MCA, making a care plan for the person who has lost mental capacity, and prudent financial management of assets and accounting.
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    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

    Professional Deputies and Donees Scheme

    1. How much will professional deputies and donees charge for their services?

    For professional deputies, the Court will determine if the proposed quantum of fees charged is reasonable.

    For professional donees, as the donor has mental capacity at the point of selecting his choice of professional donee, the fees charged would be a private arrangement between the professional donee and the donor.

    2. What are the Ministry's plans for rolling out the certification course and Professional Deputyship and Donees Scheme?

    The Professional Deputies and Donees Scheme was conceptualised with the aim of providing support to seniors who have lost mental capacity and are vulnerable. The OPG will continue to engage its stakeholders to develop a robust framework, build up the capabilities of the community in providing support to our seniors, while ensuring that the necessary safeguards are in place.

    The certification course is an important component of the framework to ensure that potential professional deputies and donees are knowledgeable about their responsibilities and are trained to carry them out in a manner that is in the best interests of the person without mental capacity.

    More information on the certification course and the scheme will be shared in due course.

    Community Kin Service

    3. How does the Community Kin Service complement the Professional Deputies and Donees scheme?

    The Community Kin complements the Professional Deputies and Donees Scheme by allowing day-to-day care decision-making to be supported by the social and healthcare sectors, while reserving more major decisions, such as liquidation of property, for professionals with expertise dealing in those areas.

    It may not be feasible to engage the services of professional deputies and donees for such day-to-day care decisions. The Community Kin service provides a practical solution that empowers VWOs to do more to support seniors holistically within the community.

    4. When will the Community Kin Service be rolled out?

    The initiative introduces new service elements that will require time to be tested out with a few cases and monitored under the pilot phase of the initiative from early 2018. Thereafter, MSF will assess whether the service can be scaled up cater to more seniors in Singapore, and how to do so.

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