Measures to check elder abuse

Measures to check elder abuse

The article, "My child, my abuser" (last Sunday), highlighted several inadequacies of the present system in protecting the elderly against abuse.

It was pointed out that personal protection orders in Singapore cannot prevent financial abuse. Indeed, the Women's Charter, which governs personal protection orders, appears to place more emphasis on physical forms of abuse.

Based on the legislation adopted in countries such as Canada and Australia, financial abuse includes coercing a person to relinquish control over assets or income, preventing a person from accessing joint financial assets for the purpose of meeting normal household expenses, or disposing of a person's property without his or her consent.

Despite the lack of physical injury, it is evident that financial abuse can have grave consequences, and our laws should protect against it. Another measure worth considering is police-issued protection orders, as introduced in Britain.

Under this system, the police can issue protection orders that have a similar effect to court- issued protection orders, but are temporary in nature, lasting for 48 hours.

Therefore, when a police report is made and domestic violence is suspected, a temporary protection order can be issued by the police immediately.

This reduces delays, as more administrative steps are needed in a court application. It can provide suspected victims of domestic violence with timely protection, until the court determines the matter.

Finally, with the significant under-reporting of abuse cases as highlighted by the article, perhaps a mandatory reporting requirement for medical professionals could be useful.

This would legally require doctors to report suspected cases of abuse and domestic violence to a relevant authority.

While issues of consent and privacy are important considerations, this would certainly give us a clearer picture of the situation at a national level.

Dierdre Grace Morgan (Ms)

This article was first published on November 9, 2014.
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