SINGAPORE: There has been strong, supportive feedback to the draft of the Vulnerable Adults Bill, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said in a press release on Friday (Sep 9).
The ministry invited feedback in July on the Bill, which aims to better protect the elderly as well as adults who are unable to care for themselves against possible abuse and neglect.
MSF said it received 43 responses from various individuals and groups, including Family Service Centres, the Law Society of Singapore, Singapore Medical Council, Families for Life Council and AWARE.
The contributors acknowledged the Bill's importance in preparing for the country’s ageing population, as well as the longer lifespans of people with disabilities, MSF said.
While most contributors expressed support for the Government to intervene in high-risk cases, some commented that it should be involved in a wider range of situations and that State powers should not be left unchecked.
Hence, in developing the Vulnerable Adults Bill, MSF said it has identified and sought a "balanced middle-ground". "The threshold has thus been set to allow for timely intervention where there is reason to believe that a vulnerable adult has suffered, is suffering or is at risk of abuse, neglect or self-neglect," it said.
MSF cited an example where vulnerable adults who have mental capacity must give their consent to State interventions involving removal and out-of-home placements. They may also decide not to receive help. At the same time, the draft Bill allows for the State to enter and assess the home of the vulnerable adult to offer "timely and effective protection".
Many of the contributors also supported the ministry's proposal to enhance penalties for offences committed against vulnerable adults under the Penal Code and the Protection from Harassment Act, MSF said.
However, some suggested that the Vulnerable Adults Bill should create a criminal offence for the abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, while others were concerned that doing so would deter vulnerable adults from seeking help for fear of implicating their family members.
MSF said the Act is intended to enable timely intervention, and hence will not include new criminal offences. Instead, MSF will look into enhancing the penalties for relevant offences committed against vulnerable adults.