New hotline is abused kids' lifeline

For over a year, Jack (not his real name) lived with his maternal aunt while his parents were in prison.

But the 10-year-old had to endure her verbal insults as she did not want to care for him.

There was no one else he could turn to as his paternal grandparents had abused him before, hitting him with a stool and hanging him upside down.

When a Family Service Centre (FSC) became aware of Jack's plight, its staff reached out to Heart@Fei Yue, a Child Protection Specialist Centre set up by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in April 2013 to handle child abuse cases considered of moderate risk.

Previously, it took on only abuse cases referred by the MSF but since April this year, it has opened its doors to the public with its hotline.

Social workers from Heart@Fei Yue have since met with Jack and his family members to make arrangements for him to stay in a children's home near his school until his parents are released.

Moderate risk means children are victims of harsh physical punishment afflicted to areas other than the head, or whose welfare may be neglected by parents who are substance abusers or mentally ill, said Heart@Fei Yue centre director Ng Kwai Sim.

Members of the public can contact the centre directly to refer possible cases of child abuse or neglect, or to consult a social worker.

Severe cases, such as those involving sexual abuse, are referred to the MSF's Child Protective Service while low-risk cases are handled by FSCs.

Since opening its services, Heart@Fei Yue, which serves the whole island, has had an average of a call a day through the hotline, but the numbers are expected to rise as people become more aware of it.

Principal social worker Ng Cher Meng said: "We hope to make Heart@Fei Yue more accessible to the public. The earlier (help is rendered) the better it is for the children."

The public can reach Heart@Fei Yue via its hotline on 6819-9170 from Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm.

This article was first published on April 27, 2016.
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