Thursday, 5 November 2015

Two initiatives aimed at at-risk youth announced

One initiative will help strengthen the design and curriculum of at-risk youth programmes, while the other initiatives will help youth workers raise their capabilities.
By Leong Wai Kit, Channel NewsAsia, 3 Nov 2015

Two new initiatives were announced on Tuesday (Nov 3) to provide more effective guidance and rehabilitation to at-risk youth. The initiatives were announced at the ACT! Conference for At-Risk Youth.

The first will start in April 2016, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). The S$2 million pilot programme, called the Youth-At-Risk Engagement (YARE) Framework, will develop standardised assessment tools to better assess the risk level and needs of youths.

Currently, there are no common assessment and evaluation tools that different agencies use in their work with youths, so this new framework will help youth workers develop and deliver better programmes to help the community, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin. He was speaking at opening address for the conference.

Mr Benjamin Teo, a senior social worker at Students Care Service, said: "We are all working with at-risk youth but there's no clear definition of what that 'at-risk youth' is. So it's a very broad definition. Each agency will sometimes come up with its own definition."

The initiative will also strengthen the design and curriculum of at-risk youth programmes, including those involving mentoring and character development through sports or arts. Selected agencies will be funded to accept referrals and roll out programmes for at-risk youth.

Projected to last three years, the programme aims to serve about 900 at-risk youth.

Said Mr Weevyn To, a social worker at Lakeside Family Services: "Let's say we've identified a youth for theft of bicycle. Some may think that the problem lies with the youth themselves. However, if you identify other factors using the risk assessment tool, we may have to work with the family and not just with the youth.”

Mr To also said some organisations may not have the same competencies to work with families. Hence, when a certain area is flagged after the assessment, social workers can refer them to appropriate help services such as family service centres.

The second initiative will start by the second half of 2017 and help youth workers in Singapore raise their capabilities and provide more effective interventions. A joint initiative between the Central Youth Guidance Office and the National Council of Social Services, the National Youth Work Competency (NYWC) Framework will set out specialised competencies required by youth work professionals.

With the framework, youth workers and their supervisors will be able to participate in suitable courses to develop their competencies and careers.

"This will help guide our youth workers, from entry level to more experienced echelons, to build their competencies and chart their careers in a systematic and progressive manner," Mr Tan said. 

More than 200 practitioners in the youth work sector are expected to benefit from the NYWC Framework initiative.

The ACT! Conference for At-Risk Youth was attended by 1,000 participants from Government agencies, voluntary welfare organisations and schools actively involved in helping at-risk-youth.

Social workers to size up young offenders
Police, social workers to work together from next year to assess needs and rehab options
By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 5 Nov 2015

From next year, young people arrested by the police will have social workers - working alongside police investigators - to help determine and assess their background.

Prosecutors will use the information - including school work, family relationships and risk of reoffending - to decide if a young offender should be dealt with by the criminal justice system or not.

Called the triage system, it includes interviewing the offender's parents or caregiver, and will allow the offender to be quickly referred to other social services.

Announcing this on the second day of a conference for at-risk youth yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and for National Development Desmond Lee gave the example of 11-year-old "Ben", who was caught for theft.

Ben's triage officer found that he was often left alone at home, and what he needed was proper after-school supervision. So, prosecutors decided to put Ben on a guidance programme, which has counselling and enrichment activities, instead of taking him to court.

"We see that the assessment under the triage system enabled prosecutors to make more informed decisions by giving them an in-depth insight into the youth's socio-economic, psychological and social circumstances," said Mr Lee, who is also chairman of the National Committee on Youth Guidance and Rehabilitation.

The triage system was piloted from September 2012 to March 2013 at two police divisions and, from next year, will expand to all six police divisions. The $3.4 million programme will run from next year to 2020, and aims to benefit people aged 19 and below who are arrested for minor crimes such as shoplifting or fighting.

A 10-year study on youth offences will also start next year, Mr Lee said. Investigators will interview 3,300 young offenders and drug abusers between the ages of 12 and 18, as well as their parents or caregivers every year for a decade, to find out why they committed crimes, how to better rehabilitate them, and how to prevent further offences.

The study's principal investigator Chu Chi Meng said the study will look into the offenders' family, education, work background, and social interactions.

"There is a lot of value in terms of how we can understand these youth and their families, and prevent them from offending, and also help them reintegrate successfully into society," said Dr Chu, who is a senior assistant director at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). The MSF-led study also involves the education, health and home affairs ministries.

Schools to get CNB drug-prevention toolkit
By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 5 Nov 2015

The Western media and the Internet may be giving young people the wrong impression that cannabis is not harmful and Singapore's drug laws are too strict.

But the drug is highly addictive and can lead to abusers using harder drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine, according to a new drug-prevention toolkit. It was launched yesterday by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) at a conference on at-risk youths.

"There is no such thing as a 'soft' drug," said Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin at the launch.

"Clusters of young cannabis abusers are emerging. A cluster develops when one young person takes cannabis. He then introduces it to his friends, who in turn introduce it to their friends."

A worrying trend he highlighted is that more cannabis abusers come from middle-class families and do well in school, a segment that Mr Amrin said does not typically consume drugs.

CNB will distribute the 103- page toolkit to schools and tertiary institutions by January. It lists various drugs, their side effects and associated penalties, as well as helplines, lesson plans and the rehabilitation schemes available.

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