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     FrontPage Edition: Thu 17 Nov 2005

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Prevention of child abuse and neglect in Singapore


Source: www.gov.sg
An Excerpt
Last year, my Ministry conducted a survey on the well-being of children and the quality of parent-child relationships in Singapore.
Almost all of the 2,300 plus children surveyed, who were between 10 and 14 years of age, felt that their parents showed them love and concern.
On average, 8 out of 10 children agreed that their communication with parents was open and meaningful. This augurs well for parent-child relationships here.
Children are our future
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Singapore¡¯s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
This convention is one of the most supported conventions amongst all the countries in the world. To date, 192 countries have ratified the Convention. This underlines the international commitment towards promoting children¡¯s rights.
Since we ratified the Convention in 1995, Singapore has achieved several milestones in the promotion of children¡¯s well-being. I must say children in Singapore today have never been more fortunate. We have established good laws and their rights are well protected.
For instance, we amended our Employment Act last year to raise the minimum working age for children and young persons from 14 to 15 years.
This is in line with a key International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention that restricts the minimum age of children in employment which Singapore has recently ratified in November 2005.
We amended the law and ratified the Convention to ensure that our children will not be exploited or be denied of their right to have a fulfilling childhood.
This year¡¯s ¡°The State of the World¡¯s Children¡± report by UNICEF, which surveyed 133 countries, ranked Singapore together with Sweden, as having the lowest infant mortality rate for children under the age of 5.
Our children¡¯s life expectancy has also increased. Their quality of life has also improved. And with all the improvements in medicine and technology, I would say that there is hope that we can all live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.
Every Child is Precious
Yet, there remain a very small percentage of children who will need protection because they are not safe from harm, either from their own families or from adults who are supposed to care for them.
But let me emphasise that the number of children who are abused is small.
Over the last 5 years, my Ministry investigated an average of 188 complaints of alleged child abuse each year. Only in 40% of cases did our investigations reveal real evidence of abuse.
Granted, the number of cases with evidence of abuse increased by about one and a half times from 61 in 2000 to 90 in 2004. This is due largely to greater awareness among those who have regular contact with children and who reported the incidents to the authorities for intervention.
What is significant is that the number of physical abuse cases has gone down between 2003 and 2004. This is a good sign.
Our challenge now is to strengthen the avenues of help available for children suffering from emotional and psychological abuse.
When we amended the Children and Young Persons Act in 2001, we expanded the definition of abuse to include emotional and psychological abuse. While we know that it is difficult to detect emotional and psychological abuse, there can be far more serious and long-term damage to a child¡¯s healthy development.
When it comes to protecting children, we adopt a pro-child approach. We listen to what they say, or rather more tellingly, what they are afraid to say. We want to help children build trusting relationships with adults, and help them heal where they have been hurt. Ultimately, we want to restore their sense of self-worth and confidence, even if it takes time.
Child abuse and neglect are problems that every society must tackle. Child abuse and neglect are often treated as private affairs that do not warrant public attention. Families tend to under-report incidents of child abuse because they do not wish to ¡°wash their dirty linen in public.¡± Neighbours also tend to turn a blind eye to such instances, so as not to ¡°affect good neighbourly ties¡±.
We have to find the right mechanisms that will help us to safeguard the well-being of our children. Evidence from other countries has shown that mandatory reporting can be counter-productive.
Over-zealous reporting of child abuse can subject families and children to substantial stress, especially if the alleged abuse turns out to be unsubstantiated. It can result in professionals themselves under-reporting child abuse cases out of fear that it will do more damage to the families and children concerned.
What is important, then, is for people who have regular contact with children to be knowledgeable about how to detect and report child abuse.
In Singapore, we have strengthened the child abuse reporting system by regularly training professionals at child care centres, kindergartens, schools and polyclinics on the detection and reporting of child abuse...

Full Text of Speech

Source: www.gov.sg Media Release 16 Nov 2005

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