Singapore

New scheme allows social workers to help seniors manage finances

New scheme to allow social workers to help those with no family support and declining ability to make decisions

Seniors without family support can soon turn to social workers to help manage their finances if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has introduced the Community Kin Service pilot project, where social workers with voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) may apply to the Family Justice Courts for powers to manage the finances of seniors under their care.

The courts will then approve regular payments for the seniors' healthcare needs and household expenses, with MSF backing such court applications.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said yesterday: "The Community Kin Service allows VWOs to help fill the role that a next-of-kin would typically play in supporting a senior."

MSF said in a statement that the pilot project will cover seniors who are 60 and above, have no family support and show signs of a declining ability to make decisions for themselves.

Two VWOs - Touch Community Services and the AMKFSC Community Services - have been chosen for the pilot, which starts early next year.

On the number of seniors who can benefit from the scheme, Touch said about 350 of the 7,000 seniors under its care are gradually losing the ability to make decisions for themselves, while AMKFSC estimated that 100 of the 1,000 seniors under its care may have dementia.

EXTENSION

Ms Julia Lee, senior director at Touch, said the new scheme is an extension of what the VWO's social workers are already doing to help the seniors under their care.

As a safeguard, (voluntary welfare organisations) must provide annual reports to the Office of the Public Guardian to account for the use of funds.Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee

"The social workers now take care of the seniors' medical and social needs. Some of the seniors also turned to us for help in managing their finances," she said.

"But currently we cannot do that because we are not authorised to do so."

Mr Ng Koon Sing, head of senior services at AMKFSC Community Services, said the process of applying for the court order needs to be simplified for VWOs.

"MSF is talking to the courts on how the process (of court applications) can be more streamlined. Our objective is not to create more work," he said.

Mr Lee, who was speaking at the first Asian Family Conference at the Orchard Hotel, said the ministry will run the pilot for "a year or two" before deciding whether to expand it.

"As a safeguard, VWOs must provide annual reports to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) to account for the use of funds," he added.

The OPG, which comes under MSF, runs the Lasting Power of Attorney Scheme under the Mental Capacity Act.

The scheme lets people appoint a "donee" or "deputy" in advance to take care of legal decisions should they lose their mental ability to do so.

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