MPs to propose changes to Maintenance of Parents Act

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MPs to propose changes to Maintenance of Parents Act

Post  fairyjade on 18/5/2010, 12:34

By Imelda Saad | Posted: 17 May 2010 1832 hrs

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Elderly in Singapore


MPs to propose changes to Maintenance of Parents Act

SINGAPORE : Needy elderly parents who are abandoned by their children may soon get better legal protection.

A team of 10 Members of Parliament is spearheading efforts to propose changes to the Maintenance of Parents Act to give the law more bite.

Among the changes being considered is that of giving the Commissioner of Maintenance of Parents access to housing and salary records of children.

Singapore's population is ageing and with time, family values change too.

Halimah Yacob, member of the Maintenance of Parents Act Workgroup and MP of Jurong GRC, said: "These values are being eroded because of the pressures of work. It is also because the nature of the relationships has changed in a very modern society."

The number of parents filing maintenance applications almost doubled to 199 last year from 109 in 2007. Such parents can seek redress under the Maintenance of Parents Act enacted 15 years ago.

But there are shortcomings - and one of them which the committee hopes to tackle is to enhance the powers of the Commissioner of Maintenance of Parents.

Chairman of the group, Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng, said: "We know that one of the difficulties the commissioner faces is the lack of information. One, they don't even know how to contact the children - the addresses are not there."

To facilitate this, the commissioner may need to have legal access to records held by agencies such as the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the Central Provident Fund board.

With such information, it is hoped that cases will be settled through mediation instead of going to the courts.

Mr Seah said: "The financial standing of the children is an important consideration. (At the) end of the day, if you have that information, the commissioner will be better placed to convince, to assist, to facilitate in the mediation between both parties - the applicant and the respondent.

"Put yourself in his shoes - the commissioner - if you don't have that information it's very hard to even try to mediate, you are going against a blank wall without this information."

The workgroup said the amendments are not about legalising filial piety, and neither is it about helping undeserving parents extract money from children.

Mr Seah said: "The act presupposes that number one - is the parent deserving of care? In the first place, if the parent had in the past neglected, abandoned or possibly even ill-treated their children, I think this will be taken into account by the Tribunal in determining whether the parents should be entitled or the case totally dismissed."

"It's not always the children (who are) at fault. Parents first look after their children. Have you been looking after the children well? Have you been inculcating the right values? If you do that, then later on - children, please look after your parents.

"And it's not just financial considerations. I think some, because of their financial standings, they may be able to support in other ways, emotional support or other forms."

Mr Seah is the first MP from the ruling People's Action Party in 36 years to propose a Bill. This is also only the fourth time a back bencher is initiating a Bill in Parliament since Singapore gained Independence in 1965.

The workgroup hopes that changes to the Bill will be passed by November this year. It will be holding public consultations in May and June, involving seven focus groups in all four languages.

Members of the public can also submit proposals to or join a discussion thread via the REACH platform.

- CNA/al

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