Mr Louis Ng
Nee Soon GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:
(a) How many cases have been mediated by the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents in 2015 and 2016;
(b) How many cases have been heard at the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents in 2015 and 2016; and
(c) What plans does the Ministry have to reduce the number of such cases.
The Maintenance of Parents Act takes a ‘conciliation first’ approach, with legal action as a last resort. This approach started in 2011 when the Act was amended to create the office of the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents.
The Commissioner conciliated 221 cases in 2015 and 136 from January till August 2016. Since 2011, we have seen encouraging results with a resolution rate of about 80%.
With upfront conciliation by the Commissioner, there have been fewer maintenance applications filed at the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents. This has also reduced acrimony and discontent between parties. Prior to 2011, the three-year average number of new applications at the Tribunal was 170. It fell to an average of 67 per year for 2012-2014. In 2015, the number was 36 and from January till August 2016, 51 applications have been filed.
At the heart of most cases is poor family relations. This could be caused by irresponsible parenting, deep rooted conflict in the family or a lack of filial piety. The Ministry will continue to promote filial piety and responsible parenting, and in particular, encourage fathers to be actively involved in raising their children. Such efforts aim to strengthen family bonds, and reduce the need for elderly parents to resort to legal recourse for maintenance. In addition, in instances where the children cannot maintain their parents, for example, they themselves are on social support or are incarcerated, the Tribunal and the Commissioner would refer such elderly to the SSOs. The aim is to ensure that the elderly's basic needs are met, but it does also reduce the number of cases officially filed.