Sunday, 16 February 2014

Police report filed over allegations of physical punishment at Pertapis

By Amanda Lee, TODAY, 15 Feb 2014

Police are investigating the PERTAPIS Children’s Home, after the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) received information that some children there may have been inappropriately physically punished by some staff.

Meanwhile, the MSF has directed the home to take immediate action to safeguard the welfare of the children under its care and to redeploy five employees to facilities not involving children. PERTAPIS’ systems and practices will also be reviewed and it will not be allowed to admit new residents in the interim, said the ministry, which had lodged a police report.

The MSF said in a press statement issued yesterday that its paramount concern and priority were the safety and well-being of the children, adding that its officers were “providing appropriate emotional and psychological support to the affected children and their families”.

A police spokesperson said a report was lodged on Feb 10 and investigations are ongoing. A parent, who has two sons in the home for the past two years, said he was shocked and surprised by the allegations. “This is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing; the staff (were) very supportive when I needed help,” he said.

The home was set up in 1991 as a place of safety for children between 4 and 12 years old under the Children and Young Persons Act. Children living at the home are usually referred by the Juvenile Court, Family Service Centres or the MSF. Currently, the home looks after 61 children and employs 26 staff.

Posting on his Facebook page last night, Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing said he was saddened by the incident, but urged the public not to judge all care workers by this incident. “Most of them have dedicated themselves to the commendable and difficult task of taking care of children at the homes,” he said.

Responding to media queries, an MSF spokesman reiterated that it has a system to safeguard the safety and well-being of children in licensed children’s homes. The ministry’s staff conduct regular inspections and unannounced visits, he said.

The MSF has also established channels for the reporting of concerns on the operations of the homes, including staff conduct and child management practices. It was through these channels — which include a child protection and welfare hotline — that the MSF received initial information about the inappropriate punishment at PERTAPIS, the spokesman said.

It is understood that operations at the home are running as usual. When TODAY visited the home yesterday, its staff asked reporters to leave the premises and declined to comment on the incident, citing the ongoing police investigation.

Pertapis Home probe: Children’s interests should be the priority, says Halimah
By Chitra Kumar, Channel NewsAsia, 15 Feb 2014

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob today (Feb 15) said that while the “wonderful work” of many Malay-Muslim organisations should be acknowledged, priority should be given to the interests of the children in the Pertapis case.

Her comments were made as a police report was lodged yesterday by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) against Pertapis Children’s Home, following allegations of children being “inappropriately punished physically” by the shelter’s staff.

Madam Halimah said: “This matter is under police investigation, so I think we should leave it to the police until they complete their investigation.

“My heart goes out to the children, and I hope that their interests will be taken care of, and I am sure that the MSF will come in to take care of their interests.

“But I also want to say that many of our Malay-Muslim organisations are really doing wonderful work and we should also acknowledge that.

“However, I hope that this is something that will be dealt with properly and that the children’s interests should be the priority.”

She was speaking on the sidelines of a breast cancer seminar organised by Ain Society to increase the awareness and dispel myths and misconceptions about breast cancer.

She also launched Ain Society’s new logo, and a new bus which will be used to help beneficiaries.

The bus, donated by Hong Leong Foundation, will ferry less mobile beneficiaries to and from their medical appointments as well as help them attend Ain Society’s programmes.

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