9 January 2018
Dr Lily Neo
MP for Jalan Besar GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) whether the Ministry identifies and closely supervises cases of intellectually disabled persons who have no familial support or are estranged from their families; and (b) what can be done to prevent such vulnerable persons from being taken advantage of or abused.
1. MSF recognises the vulnerability of intellectually disabled persons who have no familial support. Some may not have mental capacity or may lose mental capacity for decision-making and judgment.
2. MSF works with community partners such as the Singapore Police Force, Social Service Offices, Family Service Centres, and disability services providers to identify and help persons with intellectual disabilities with no familial support. For example, Day Activity Centres (DACs) help persons with disabilities acquire living skills to enhance their independence. There are 29 DACs island-wide, and 19 cater to persons with intellectual disabilities. We have added another 400 DAC places in 2017 and will add more this year to increase the availability of such services to persons with disabilities. The wider community and public also have a crucial role to play in identifying and protecting these vulnerable individuals. In this regard, MSF launched a 3-year "Break the Silence" campaign to encourage bystanders who witness violence to take action. The campaign taps on social media, radio, TV and roadshows to reach various segments in the community.
3. For persons who lack the mental capacity to make specific decisions relating to their personal welfare or property and affairs, a Deputy may be appointed under the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) as a proxy-decision maker for that person. One of the key roles of the Public Guardian is to supervise Deputies appointed by the Court for persons who lack mental capacity, which include those with intellectual disabilities. The Public Guardian will also investigate whistle-blower complaints on any alleged violation of the MCA provisions, including abuse or ill-treatment of individuals without mental capacity, as well as instances of Deputies acting beyond the scope of the powers conferred on them by the Courts. If required, the Public Guardian will take appropriate action to safeguard such individuals, such as applying to the Courts to suspend or revoke an errant Deputy's appointment.
4. In some situations, persons with intellectual disability, regardless of mental capacity, may be unable to protect themselves from abuse or neglect. One of the additional levers to protect such individuals is the Vulnerable Adults Bill. The proposed legislation will allow the Government to protect individuals with physical and/or mental disabilities, and who cannot protect themselves from abuse, neglect and self-neglect. This will complement existing laws that address violence, maltreatment and abuse against them.