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Elderly Singaporeans gather to play Chinese Chess with friends in Chinatown, Singapore from Shutterstock.com

MSF says strong positive feedback on proposed Vulnerable Adult Bill

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) had earlier said in the press release on last Friday (9 September) that it received positive feedback on the Vulnerable Adult Bill.

It stated that there were 43 responses during the public consultation on the proposed Bill which was held from 27 July to 23 August.

Some of the contributors said that the Bill complemented the roles played by the family and community. However, the role to care for the vulnerable adults should be held by the family and relatives first.

Most contributors advised the State to intervene in high-risk cases. Some also said that the State should be involved in a wider range of situations, and as it was given more power to control, it should not leave unsupervised.

MSF said, "The threshold has thus been set to allow for timely intervention where there is a reason to believe that a vulnerable adult has suffered, is suffering or is at risk of abuse, neglect or self-neglect."

It also stated that those who have mental capacity must give their consent to State interventions involving removal and out-of-home placements, and may also decide not to receive help.

Enhance penalties for offences committed against vulnerable adults under the Penal Code and the Protection from Harassment Act were also encouraged by many contributors.

Some suggested that the Bill should create a criminal offence for those who abuse or neglect a vulnerable adult. However, some were concerned that by setting up a criminal offence, some vulnerable adults may fear to seek help as they are afraid to incriminate their family members.

MSF said that it would create timely intervention and look into enhancing the penalties for relevant offences committed against vulnerable adults.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) was holding a public consultation to get feedbacks from members of public about the protection of the elderly, especially for those who are living alone after the infamous case of Yang Yin came to light, of how he allegedly misappropriated money from a wealthy widow and the public furor that followed,.

The invitation for the feedback was issued in July. The proposed Vulnerable Adult Bill allows the State to step in for high-risk cases where state intervention is necessary to protect and ensure the safety of the vulnerable adult. This is clearly in response to the infamous Yang Yin saga, where a Chinese tour agent is currently under trial for allegedly taking possession of an old lady's assets and cash while she is suffering from dementia.

Read: Prosecution seeks minimum 10 years imprisonment of Yang Yin for misappropriating $1.1 million from widow

The proposed bill seeks to provide power for authorities to assess needs of vulnerable adult, and to enter premises and seek information for the purpose of assessments. The bill also seeks to instill power for the removal of vulnerable elders from their environment if the Director of Social Welfare or the assigned protector is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the vulnerable adult is experiencing or at risk of abuse, neglect or self-neglect.

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It has been highlighted many times that Singapore's population is ageing rapidly. The country will be occupied by over than 900,000 residents aged 65 or more by the year of 2030 and most of them would be single or have no children, as many of those from new generations tend to stay single rather than to get married due to the high cost of living, expensive child education and lack of pressure from family to get married. The number of elderly who will be living alone is projected to increase from 35,000 in 2012 to 83,000 in 2030.

Elderly who develop dementia, a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning, may be unable to care for themselves.

According to the statistic, people with disabilities are also living longer, and more are expected to outlive their parents. Vulnerable elderly and aging persons with disabilities are especially vulnerable to abuse, neglect and self-neglect.