INTRODUCTION OF THE CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS (AMENDMENT) BILL
Stronger Support for Children in Need of Protection and Rehabilitation
1. Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Desmond Lee, introduced a Bill to amend the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) in Parliament today. Last amended in 2011, the CYPA provides the legislative framework for the welfare, protection and rehabilitation of children and young persons below 16 years of age (referred to subsequently as "children").
2. The Bill seeks to strengthen Government and community support for abused and neglected children, and improve the rehabilitation and re-integration of children with offending behaviour. The amendments take into account public feedback received and the experiences of social service agencies (SSAs) that work with children and families (See Annex A for summary of responses from the consultations).
A. Safeguard the interests of abused or neglected children
3. Today, the CYPA allows MSF to intervene swiftly to provide care, protection and assistance necessary to abused or neglected children below 16. The Bill seeks to extend such protection to children below 18.
(i) New Enhanced Care and Protection Order
4. The Bill proposes a new Enhanced Care and Protection Order (ECPO), which can be applied for in cases where despite the best efforts of professionals and the community, it is not in the best interests of the child to be reunified with his/her family. This may occur in a case where the Court has assessed that the family is not able to take care of the child without risking his/her safety and the child has remained in out-of-home care cumulatively beyond a specified duration. The ECPO empowers care-providers to make care decisions that would otherwise require parental consent, so that decisions crucial for a child's development can be made in a timely manner. When parents continue to struggle to provide a safe environment for the child despite MSF's intervention, the ECPO, which can last till such a child turns 21 years old, gives certainty to the child and provides stable care arrangements to help the child recover.
(ii) Foster parents to receive childcare leave benefits
5. Foster parents play a key role in supporting vulnerable children. Currently, foster parents that work need to take their own leave to care for their foster children. This includes bringing their foster children to see a doctor when they are ill, or to a therapist to work through possible developmental delays or trauma from abuse. The Bill seeks to extend childcare leave benefits to foster parents, to help them care for their foster children (see Annex B for details). These changes are part of continued efforts to strengthen support for our foster parents.
B. Improve rehabilitation and re-integration of children with offending behaviour
6. Children commit offences for many different reasons. Sometimes it is because of challenging family circumstances or the absence of family support. The Bill proposes to enhance the rehabilitation and re-integration of young offenders, including those who are above the age of 16 to below 18.
(i) Change in treatment of criminal records
7. To give a second chance to a youth offender who turns over a new leaf, the Bill proposes that a youth's criminal record be deemed to be spent when he successfully completes specific Youth Court orders. This will allow deserving ex-offenders who wish to change for the better to put their past behind them, by not having to declare that they have a criminal record.
(ii) Identity protected for duration of a child's lifetime
8. Today, under the CYPA, the identity and privacy of a child is protected if he is below 16. The Bill seeks to ensure that a child's identity remains protected as long as a further offence is not committed when he is older.
9. The Bill will be read a second time and debated in Parliament at the next available sitting.
ISSUED BY MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT
5 AUGUST 2019ANNEX B