Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development why have Government agencies and the social services not been aware that the dead toddler recently found in a Chin Swee Road flat has been missing for five years.
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development with regard to the recent Chin Swee Road toddler death, whether the toddler's birth was registered and, if so, why Government agencies did not detect the child's absence from educational and other records in spite of the absence of a certificate of death.
Mr Chong Kee Hiong
MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development regarding the discovery of a child's body at Chin Swee Road, (a) whether the family was under the watch of any Ministry-appointed counsellor in view of the family situation, (b) if so, did the disappearance of the child raised any alert; and (c) if the Ministry has measures to verify the condition of children in such troubled families where parents are uncooperative, so as to detect potential abuse as early as possible.
Mr Christopher de Souza
MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development with regard to the death of a toddler in a Chin Swee Road flat (a) whether Government agencies and social service agencies could have picked up the death earlier; and (b) whether the rest of the siblings are in stable care arrangements.
1. I will give some background on our processes to protect victims of family violence. The National Family Violence Networking System (NFVNS) was set-up by MSF to tighten partnerships amongst stakeholders such as the Singapore Police Force, hospitals and Family Service Centres to support individuals affected by family violence.
2. We have strengthened the capabilities of professionals such as teachers, healthcare professionals and social workers to detect child abuse early and intervene appropriately. Sector-wide screening tools, such as the Sector-Specific Screening Guide (SSSG) and Child Abuse Reporting Guide (CARG), were developed to help professionals make timely decisions to escalate child abuse concerns to MSF Child Protective Service. Professionals are trained regularly on the use of these screening tools.
3. The Penal Code was also amended in May this year to enhance protection for vulnerable victims. Maximum penalties for all offences in the Penal Code committed against vulnerable victims, including children below 14 years old, may be enhanced by up to twice the maximum penalties previously prescribed for the offence. Such offences committed against children below 14 years old were also made arrestable, regardless of whether the underlying offence was arrestable, to allow Police to intervene quickly.
4. Let me now turn to the specific questions that Members have raised about the death of the two-year old child.
5. Mr Christopher de Souza asked about the other siblings in the affected family. The other children are all under alternative care arrangements. MSF will continue to provide the necessary support to ensure the children’s safety and welfare.
6. Associate Professor Daniel Goh, Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Mr Christopher de Souza asked if the death of the child could have been picked up earlier. Mr Dennis Tan also asked whether the child’s birth was registered and whether agencies could have detected the child's absence from educational and other records.
7. ICA has confirmed that the child’s birth was registered. Over the years, the family was known to, helped by or had contact with several various Government and community agencies such as MSF Social Service Office, Child Protective Service, Home Team agencies, MOE, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and Family Service Centres. These were for various matters, such as for financial assistance, family well-being and child care issues, education and preschool matters, and so on.
8. The family had previously approached the Social Service Office (SSO) to apply for financial assistance. The SSO had also linked the family up with a Family Service Centre for general support to improve the family and children’s well-being. The family also had previous interactions with Child Protective Service. During the social investigation, CPS will ascertain whether the children residing in the household are adequately provided for, and work with the family to put in place a plan to address the concerns.
9. ECDA engaged the family as part of the preschool outreach programme. Under the programme, outreach agencies appointed by ECDA reach out to lower-income families with children not enrolled in preschool. The agency engages the caregiver or parents on the importance of preschool education, helps facilitate enrolment of the child in a preschool if requested and refers them to other help agencies if necessary. If the family is uncontactable or unresponsive despite numerous visit attempts, ECDA and the outreach agencies reach out to local community partners and work with them to try to engage the family when they are more receptive.
10. As for education, MOE adopts several measures to reach out to parents whose children do not participate in the Primary 1 registration exercise. These include sending reminder letters and offering assistance to place the children in national primary schools. Where there is no response to the reminder letters, MOE sends liaison officers to make home visits. If a child is not staying with the parents, MOE continues to work with various agencies to try to contact the caregivers of the child.
11. What members of the family said and did in their interactions with each of the different agencies and organisations over the years is relevant to ongoing investigations and criminal proceedings. I should therefore not go into any specific detail. But what I will say is this: based on what the family members had said at that time, and the interactions that the family had with the different agencies, the officers and social workers did not suspect that the child had gone missing or had come to any harm. The family had said that the child was being looked after by relatives. A 2 year-old child will generally have no interaction, on a regular basis, with agencies. More details will be given in court.