'Caged' residents home staff in Malaysia did not undergo training

PHOTO: The Star

BATU GAJAH: The manager of the welfare home where some residents were allegedly locked in "cages" lacked training.

The 12 caregivers, five of whom are permanent staff, also did not undergo any training from the state Welfare Department on how to handle the mentally challenged.

Women, Family, and Community Development Deputy Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said this was among the weaknesses overlooked by the department.

She said the manager had some form of training but it was not adequate, and would have to undergo courses with the rest of the staff.

"Without training, they do not have the knowledge to handle the residents.

"There is a high turnover rate of caregivers at the home because not many people can handle the job. They will need to undergo proper training," she told reporters after visiting the home here yesterday.

"Because they don't have any training, the easy way out was to lock the aggressive residents in the cubicles without any consultation of medical experts."

Chew visited the centre after photographs showing several inmates in the home caged up went viral on social media.

The person who took the photographs claimed that she was visiting her aunt, a resident at the home, when she stumbled on the "cages".

State Health Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, who was also present, said arrangements would be made for medical experts to visit the home as soon as possible.

Chew said the residents would continue to remain in the home, as the management had not breached any safety requirement or ill-treated them.

However, psychiatric evaluation for all residents would be carried out to check their mental status, and for the best treatment required, she said, adding that the best course of action now would be decided based on recommendations from the experts.

"There is no need to place them in cubicles if they can be less aggressive with medication, or if the doctors recommend that the residents need to seek treatment at Hospital Bahagia.

Disabled children in welfare home caged for their safety

  • A welfare home is keeping disabled children locked in "cages" - for fear that they may hurt each other.
  • And the Welfare Department says it's for their own safety and that of the other children there.
  • However, photos of the children in the concrete "cages" with solid metal doors have gone viral and the home has come under attack.
  • Handicapped Children's Welfare Home chairman R. Sivalingam said the home had been unfairly accused of mistreatment.
  • He said that of the 47 residents at the home, 10 were mentally challenged and were suffering from extreme mental conditions.
  • Sivalingam said the 10 were under the supervision of the staff during the day and were allowed to roam around the home's compound.
  • During bedtime, though, they were confined to "special cubicles" and provided with mattresses and pillows.
  • Sivalingam said the residents in the home, set up some 45 years ago, were aged between 13 and 60, and some had been in the home since young.
  • He said the special cubicles were built in 2006, because before he took over as the chairman, those with severe mental conditions were tied with ropes to prevent injuries.

"If indeed doctors recommend that some aggressive residents need to be confined, then we need to come up with a better method," Chew added.

She also said more surprise checks would be carried out by the department to monitor the safety, health, and cleanliness of the home.

While some people lashed out at the person who uploaded the photos, Chew did not.

"I know from the perspective of outsiders that it can be really cruel to see some of the residents caged up, so I cannot blame her," she added.

"Even when I saw the situation, I was taken aback, but we need to understand the overall situation and try to improve on the weaknesses."

She said the person who posted the photos could come to visit the home once all the improvements were made.

Chew said the home, established in 1968, had helped to house disabled children and it was important to make a fair judgment for the betterment of all parties.

When contacted, the whistleblower said she was willing to visit the home again, but she felt no matter how aggressive or dangerous the occupants were, they did not deserve to be caged.

"They are humans and deserve to sleep on beds. I feel the management must be replaced.

"When I took the photos, there were no mattresses provided and there was definitely more than one person locked up in a cage," she said.

Meanwhile, police have urged people with information on the welfare home to come forward.

State Deputy Police Chief Deputy Comm Datuk Hasnan Hassan said that so far there was no report from the public and only the police had lodged a report over the incident.

"We responded to the pictures and went there to check if there was any wrongdoing," he said.