SINGAPORE: A workgroup has been formed to review the Maintenance of Parents Act to better meet the needs of the elderly, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced on Friday (Jan 7).
Comprising nine Members of Parliament (MPs), the workgroup - to be led by Mr Seah Kian Peng (PAP-Marine Parade) - will consult members of the public and other stakeholders with a series of focus group discussions and an online survey this month.
These will culminate in the tabling of a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Act, targeted for the end of this year, said MSF.
The Act, which came into effect in 1995, serves to provide elderly people, who are unable to maintain themselves adequately, with a legal channel to seek maintenance from their children.
It was last amended in 2010 through a Private Member’s Bill tabled in Parliament by Mr Seah, with the key amendment being the establishment of a conciliation-first approach to resolve maintenance disputes.
"Since March 2011, it is mandatory for the elderly to seek conciliation with their children at the Office of the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents (CMP) prior to filing for a maintenance order at the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents," said MSF.
This approach has seen positive results, the ministry said.
It noted the yearly number of cases of elderly parents who eventually filed for maintenance orders at the Tribunal dropped from a three-year average of 170, between 2008 to 2010, to 86, from 2011 to 2013.
Since 2017, it has remained stable at about 30 cases each year.
MSF attributed this decline to the enhanced conciliation process at the CMP, which has settled about 90 per cent of the more than 2,000 applications received since March 2011.
“The Act, which was last amended in 2010, has enabled deserving parents to secure the needed maintenance from their children – children who have the capacity to provide maintenance to their parents but are not doing so," said Mr Seah, who also chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development.
"As 11 years have passed since we last amended the Act, it is timely for another review to ensure that the Act remains relevant and effective for the future," he added.
Workgroup member Tin Pei Ling (PAP-MacPherson) said the focus group discussions and online survey will provide a "sharper and deeper insight" into sentiments on the ground.
"Over the next one month, we will be reaching out to various groups of citizens, including elderly parents, adult children and youths, to gain a more current understanding of Singaporeans' family values and position on the principles underlying the Maintenance of Parents Act, as well as seeking their inputs," said Ms Tin.
She added that the workgroup would also seek the views of relevant social and community agencies.
Those interested in participating in the focus group discussions may indicate their interest at go.gov.sg/mpafocusgroups.
The workgroup will also be working with MSF's Alliance for Action to Strengthen Marriages and Family Relationships, which is looking at support for families with early risks and parenting together.