Mr Seah Kian Peng
MP for Marine Parade GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development whether he can provide an update on measures taken to rehabilitate and protect at-risk individuals and offenders to transform their lives and the results to date.
The Government adopts a range of measures to support at-risk youths and youth offenders.
A. Upstream intervention
Firstly, we intervene upstream to address risk factors before offences are committed.
In 2012, MSF appointed two Social Service Agencies to run “Youth GO!”, where youth workers conduct street outreach to engage at-risk youths. Youth GO! workers reach out to around 300 youths each month and engage them in structured activities, which reduces risky behaviours, and improves their relationships and life skills.
MSF works closely with MOE to provide the Enhanced STEP-UP (ESU) programme, benefitting more than 600 youths each year. This programme supports youths who are at risk of dropping out and those who have left school, so that they can continue their education or acquire vocational skills for employment.
MSF is also piloting a Localised Community Network (LCN) in Jurong West, to improve the coordination between various partners, and provide more seamless support to the youths and their families.
B. Divert youth offenders away from criminal justice system
Secondly, we divert youth offenders away from the criminal justice system as far as possible.
MSF appointed nine social service agencies to be Integrated Service Providers (ISPs), which support youth offenders diverted away from the criminal justice system. ISPs run programmes to address offending behaviours, and have worked with around 900 youths and families so far. On average, more than 80% of the youths satisfactorily complete their programmes. Arrests of youths aged between 7 and 19 years old have fallen from around 3,100 in 2014 to 2,700 in 2018, a decrease of 13%.
C. Community-based over institutional rehabilitation
Thirdly, we prioritise community-based interventions to involve families and minimise disruption to the youth’s development.
Such interventions include probation and rehabilitation outside of residential facilities. MSF employs a family-focused approach to address the root causes of youth offending, such as weak family support. The average three-year recidivism rate of probationers aged below 16 years old has fallen. A 19.5% recidivism rate for cases closed from 2007 to 2009, improved to 12.5% for cases closed from 2010 to 2014.
MSF’s Youth Homes run programmes to build our youths’ character and life-skills. Formal education is a key component as well, and the majority of those who sit for national examinations such as the GCE N and O Levels, attain passes above the national average.
D. Sustaining rehabilitative outcomes
Fourthly, we sustain rehabilitative outcomes to better reintegrate children with their families and society.
MSF announced during the Committee of Supply this year that we are extending the period of post-care support in Youth Homes from two months to one year. The longer duration helps youths to sustain good habits and skills acquired during their residence, and encourages them to continue their academic or vocational training. The Singapore Prison Service adopts a similar approach for youth offenders in prison, by staging support from the point of imprisonment, to their release and reintegration back into the community.
In addition, labelling someone as an ex-offender makes reintegration more difficult for him or her. Hence, our recent amendments in the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) have also included enhancing the protection of youth offenders’ identity and privacy.
The Government is committed to protecting and supporting youth-at-risk and youth offenders. MSF will continue to work closely with other Ministries and community partners to steer at-risk youths away from negative behaviours, and provide rehabilitative and post-care initiatives to break the cycle of offending.