28 March 2018
On 20 March 2018, the Vulnerable Adults Bill (“Bill”) was introduced in Parliament for first reading. The Bill complements existing laws that address violence, maltreatment and abuse against vulnerable adults (“VAs”) by allowing the State to intervene as a last resort to protect VAs where family and community interventions have been exhausted.
VAs refer to individuals who are 18 years of age or older and are incapable of protecting themselves from abuse, neglect or self-neglect by reason of mental or physical infirmity, disability or incapacity.
Key provisions of the Bill
The key provisions of the Bill are as follows:
- Empowering State intervention: The Bill allows the Ministry of Social and Family Development (“MSF”) to: (a) enter the homes of suspected VAs and assess if they are suffering from or at risk of abuse, neglect or self-neglect; (b) obtain information and records of suspected VAs who are believed to have experienced, be experiencing, or be at risk of, abuse, neglect or self-neglect; and (c) temporarily remove VAs and place them in designated facilities which provide care and protection.
- Court orders to protect VAs: MSF may apply for court orders to place VAs in alternative care options, restrain abusers from causing further harm, and exclude abusers from the VA’s living environment.
- Powers for MSF to investigate offences: MSF officers will be empowered to investigate offences under the Bill. Their powers will include entering, inspecting and searching premises, inspecting and seizing documents, and requiring persons to assist in investigations.
- Protection for whistle-blowers: To encourage persons to provide information to the authorities about the alleged abuse, neglect or self-neglect of VAs, protection will be afforded to those who report such information to the authorities.
- Enhanced penalties for offences committed against VAs: Under the Bill, the relevant offences under the Penal Code and Protection from Harassment Act committed against VAs will have their penalties enhanced. Amendments will also be made to the Women’s Charter to increase the penalties for contravening a protection order that relates to a VA.
The introduction of this Bill follows a public consultation conducted by MSF from 27 July 2016 to 23 August 2016 seeking feedback on a draft version of the Bill.