Mr Zainal Sapari
Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:
(a) what is the number and trend of child abuse cases that have been reported in the last three years;
(b) how many of these cases involve the child having to be hospitalised;
(c) how many has led to fatality;
(d) what improvements have been made to our structure and processes to detect such cases for early intervention; and
(e) whether teachers and the public have been educated or trained to look out for cases of child abuse.
In 2015, my Ministry’s Child Protective Service investigated 551 cases of child abuse and neglect. This number was higher than the 300 to 400 cases investigated in the previous three years. One reason for this trend is that there is better detection and reporting by professionals such as social workers and teachers, as a result of our investment in strengthening the capabilities of our partners. A second reason is that we have expanded our role and redefined the criteria for assessing when a case would be taken up for investigation.
About 20 of the children involved in our investigations last year were admitted to hospital for medical treatment for their injuries. There were two fatalities arising from child abuse between 2013 and 2015.
My Ministry has invested in strengthening the capabilities of professionals such as teachers, and healthcare and social workers to detect abuse and intervene appropriately. For instance, we have developed sector-wide guidelines to have clarity and consistency in how professionals would screen for child abuse, and regular training on the use of these guidelines. In schools for instance, teachers will alert school counsellors, and if necessary my Ministry’s Child Protective Service, to provide support to students who show signs of distress or possible abuse.
For better detection and early intervention, we have established inter-agency networks, such as the Inter-Ministry Workgroup on Child Protection and put in place clear processes for schools, community agencies and hospitals for reporting suspected abuse.
To further reduce the instances of child abuse that go undetected, the Government will continue ongoing efforts in public education and community outreach. Preventing child abuse is everyone’s responsibility. Anyone who is aware of a child being or is at risk of being abused, can help by reporting it.