UN COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD NON-GOVERNMENTAL REPORT

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UN COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD NON-GOVERNMENTAL REPORT Powered By Docstoc
					           UN COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
          NON-GOVERNMENTAL REPORT SUBMITTED BY THE
         NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICE, SINGAPORE

1.               Introduction

1.1              The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) is the national co-ordinating
                 body for Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) in Singapore. NCSS was
                 established by an Act of Parliament in 1992, and is not part of the
                 Government.

1.2              The NCSS mission is to provide leadership and direction in social services, to
                 enhance the capabilities of social service organisations, and to promote
                 strategic partnerships for social services. Its purpose is to ensure that every
                 person has the opportunity to live a life of dignity to his or her fullest
                 potential within society.

1.3              In Singapore, VWOs are the main providers of personal social services.
                 They are essentially organisations that are voluntary set-ups and governed by
                 an elected Board comprising volunteers. VWOs are non-profit making in
                 nature and have professional staff to help the disadvantaged to be self-reliant
                 in fulfilling their roles in their families and societies by providing financial,
                 emotional, educational, medical and social support.

1.4              To date, there are more than 280 VWOs which are affiliated to NCSS.

1.5              As a social service organisation, NCSS and its affiliates has purview over
                 social service issues related to children, including early intervention and
                 special education for children with disabilities etc.


2.               The Status and Welfare of Children in Singapore

2.1              NCSS is pleased to state that children in Singapore are well taken care of.
                 Singapore has complied with the majority of the Articles of the Convention.
                 Much of this can be attributed to a range of factors, including political
                 stability, an established and comprehensive education and healthcare system,
                 and Government priority being placed on the welfare and protection of
                 children in general.

2.2              The recommendations contained in this NGO Report have been made in
                 consideration of Singapore’s strive towards reaching levels of excellence as a
                 developed country. To that end, NCSS and the NGO sector will continue to
                 work with the Government in enhancing the status and welfare of children in
                 Singapore.



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3.               NGO Contributions to Singapore’s Initial Report to the UN Committee
                 on the Rights of the Child

3.1              In general, NCSS broadly agrees with and supports the Initial Report to the
                 UN, as submitted by the Singapore Government in March 2002 (the State
                 party report).

3.2              In the process of preparing the State party report, the Government had been
                 in consultation with NGOs, through the following means:

                 a) Dialogue sessions and a closed door forum were organised between
                    Government and NGOs, to discuss the UN Convention on the Rights of
                    the Child and preparation for the State party report.

                 b) Draft copies of the State party report were circulated to NGOs for their
                    comment. NGO contributions on the draft report were eventually
                    incorporated into the official State party report.

3.3              NCSS had played a pro-active role in this process through:

                 a) Assisting the Government in gathering views from the NGO sector; and

                 b) Consolidating the views of the NGO sector before representing it to the
                    Government.

3.4              In preparing this NGO Report, NCSS had consolidated the views of both
                 NGOs who had previously commented on the draft State party report as well
                 those who had not previously contributed their comments directly.

3.5              The attached Annex A lists the names of the NGOs which had provided
                 comment.


4.               NGO comments on specific articles in the UN Convention on the Rights
                 of the Child, including comments on Singapore’s Initial Report

                 CHAPTER I                                  GENERAL MEASURES OF IMPLEMENTATION

4.1              Article 4 – Implementation Obligations
                 The State must do all it can to impl ement the rights contained in the
                 Convention.

                 We agree with the essence of this article. In Singapore, legislative provisions
                 provide an adequate starting point. NCSS and the NGO sector will work in
                 concerted effort with the Government to implement measures for the well
                 being of the child.


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4.2              Article 42 – Publicity
                 The State's obligation to make the rights contained in the Convention
                 widely known to both adults and children.

                 We support the need to publicise the principles and provisions of the CRC.
                 At present, efforts are made to publicise within the NGO and social service
                 sector.    However, it is generally felt by the NGO sector that the
                 Government’s publicity efforts should extend beyond the NGO sector, and
                 publicity programmes expanded to target the general public through the mass
                 media, and work towards including the Articles of the CRC into the formal
                 educational curriculum.


                 CHAPTER II                                 DEFINITION OF THE CHILD

4.3              Article 1 - Definition of the Child
                 A child is recognised as a person under 18, unless national laws recognise
                 the age of maturity earlier.

                 We note that this is slightly different from the definition as given in the
                 Children & Young Persons (CYP) Act, in which a child or young person is
                 defined as under 16 years of age. However, we do not foresee any significant
                 repercussions as a result of this discrepancy at the moment. We are satisfied
                 with the other definitions spelt out in existing legislation in Singapore, as
                 detailed in the State Party report.


                 CHAPTER III                                              GENERAL PRINCIPLES

4.4              Article 3 – Best Interests of the Child
                 All actions concerning the child shall take full account of his or her best
                 interests. The State shall provide the child with adequate care when
                 parents, or others charged with that responsibility, fail to do so.

                 We fully subscribe to and support the principle of the child’s best interest as
                 being of paramount consideration in all endeavours. In Singapore, the
                 Government is pro-active in providing protection and support for children-at-
                 risk.

4.5              Article 12 - Respect for the Views of the Child
                 The child has the right to express his or her opinion freely and to have
                 that opinion taken into account in any matter or procedure affecting the
                 child.




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                 We agree that the child’s voice should be heard and given due weight. NCSS
                 will work with the Government to more actively engage groups that represent
                 the views of children.


                 CHAPTER IV                                               CIVIL RIGHTS AND FREEDOM

4.6              Article 17 - Access to Appropriate Information
                 The State shall ensure the accessibility to children of information and
                 material from a diversity of sources, and it shall encourage the mass
                 media to disseminate information which is of social and cultural benefit
                 to the child, and to take steps to protect him or her from harmful
                 materials.

4.6.1            We agree that the mass media, including the internet, has a very important
                 function in informing and educating the child towards wholesome
                 development. However, we are concerned that the mass media should be
                 very mindful and sensitive about possible influences that have a negative
                 impact on the child’s development and behaviour. In particular, materials of
                 an aggressive or violent nature should not be freely accessible to children, nor
                 should aggression or violence be portrayed in a positive light.

4.6.2            Both the Government and NCSS are currently funding cyber-counselling
                 services provided by VWOs, to reach out to internet-savvy young people in
                 need of social services through info-comm technology.


                 CHAPTER V                            FAMILY ENVIRONMENT & ALTERNATIVE CARE

4.7              Article 5 - Parental Guidance & Article 18 - Parental Responsibilities
                 The State must respect the rights and responsibilities of parents and the
                 extended family to provide guidance for the child which is appropriate to
                 her or his evolving capacities (Article 5). Parents have joint primary
                 responsibility for raising the child, and the State shall support them in
                 this. The State shall provide appropriate assistance to parents in child-
                 rai sing (Article 18).

4.7.1            Parents’ rights and responsibilities are embodied in the Women’s Charter.
                 We agree the Government should respect parental rights over the child, and
                 fully subscribe to these principles. All parents should love their children and
                 should have their best interests at heart. However, it is observed that the
                 stresses and strains of modern living and the conflicting demands of their
                 time will challenge their role and responsibilities as parents. Such stresses
                 include the prevalence of dual income families, and the reliance on the
                 foreign maid as a significant care-giver of young children.



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4.7.2            Hence on-going and concerted efforts have and should continue to be made
                 by the Government to create pro-family policies, and for the Government,
                 NGOs, the private sector and the community to develop an environment to
                 support and sustain parents in performing their roles and responsibilities. It is
                 encouraging for NCSS to note that the Government had proactively launched
                 a series of initiatives to enhance family life in Singapore.


4.8              Abuse and Neglect (Article 19), Including Physical & Psychological
                 Recovery & Social Reintegration (Article 39)

                 The State shall protect the child from all forms of maltreatment by
                 parents or others responsible for the care of the child and establish
                 appropriate social programmes for the prevention of abuse and the
                 treatment of victims (Article 19). The State has an obligation to ensure
                 that child victims of armed conflicts, torture, neglect, maltreatment or
                 exploitation receive appropriate treatment for their recovery and social
                 reintegration (Article 39).

                 There are adequate provisions under the Women’s Charter and the CYP Act
                 to provide the necessary support for the child’s care and protection, and we
                 strongly support the call to protect children from all kinds of neglect and
                 abuse. The Government has taken the lead to fund and co-ordinate social
                 services for victims of family violence. In our opinion, the Government
                 should continue to commit resources to developing a comprehensive system
                 of early detection of potential victims of child abuse, for specialised training
                 of staff and enhancement of programmes for the rehabilitation of perpetrators
                 as well as treatment of victims. In addition, there needs to be more high
                 profile public education programmes to raise people’s awareness of
                 emotional abuse; and that any form of abuse and violence towards children is
                 not acceptable.


4.9              Article 25 - Periodic Review of Placement

                 A child pl aced by the State for reasons of care, protection or treatment is
                 entitled to have that placement evaluated regularly.

                 Singapore has the necessary legislative framework and structure for periodic
                 review of the programmes for a child placed in residential care. However,
                 more needs to be done, jointly by the Government and NGO sectors, to
                 enhance the professionalism and capability of residential children’s service
                 providers. The Government, together with the NGO sector, must also
                 continue to work together to ensure that if the option of placement outside of
                 the family home is to be exercised, it will be the best alternative for the child.



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                 CHAPTER VI                                 BASIC HEALTH AND WELFARE

4.10             Article 23 - Disabled Children
                 A disabled child has the right to special care, education and training to
                 help him or her enjoy a full and decent life in dignity and achieve the
                 greatest degree of self-reliance and social integration possible.

4.10.1           The preferred term used by NCSS and its affiliates is “children with
                 disabilities”, instead of “disabled children”, as we believe that the focus
                 should be on the child, rather than the disability. NCSS and its affiliates fully
                 support and practise the principle spelt out in Article 23. Since the Article
                 makes it an obligation for State Parties to provide access for all children,
                 including those with special needs, we feel that the Government should put in
                 place a full range of educational and other services and facilities for children
                 with disabilities, and at the same time ensure that there is adequate
                 accessibility to these services.

4.10.2           NCSS, through its fund-raising arm the Community Chest, raises and
                 allocates substantial resources for services for children with disabilities,
                 including early intervention programmes and special education. Special
                 education is co-funded by the Government. In our opinion, the Government
                 should commit more resources in areas of pedagogical and curriculum
                 development of special education for children with special needs.

4.10.3           NCSS had been working closely with the Government to ensure that the
                 transport system is accessible to people with physical, sensory and multiple
                 disabilities. NCSS will continue to work with the Government to ensure that
                 in building a world-class public transport system, measures will be put in
                 place so that adults and children with disabilities are able to be self reliant
                 and fully integrate into the community.


4.11             Article 34 - Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse
                 The State shall protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse,
                 including prostitution and involvement in pornography.

                 There are adequate provisions under the CYP Act, Women’s Charter and the
                 Penal Code to deal with the problem of sexual exploitation of a child.


5.               Summary of Key NGO Recommendations

                 General Recommendation
5.1              NCSS and the NGO sector must continue to work in concerted effort with the


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                 Government to implement measures for the well-being of the child.

                 Specific Recommendations
5.2              The Government should continue to put in place a full range of educational
                 and other social support services and facilities for children with disabilities,
                 and at the same time ensure that there is adequate accessibility to these
                 services.

5.3              The Government should commit more resources in areas of pedagogical and
                 curriculum development of special education for children with special needs.

5.4              The Government should continue to ensure that in building a world-class
                 public transport system, measures will be put in place so that children with
                 disabilities are able to be self reliant and fully integrate into the community.

5.5              The Government should continue to commit resources to developing a
                 comprehensive system of early detection of potential victims of child abuse,
                 for specialised training of staff and enhancement of programmes for the
                 rehabilitation of perpetrators as well as treatment of victims.

5.6              The Government and NGOs should continue to work closely together to
                 enhance the professionalism and capability of residential children’s service
                 providers. In addition, the Government and NGOs should explore more
                 alternative care arrangements for children in need of placement, in addition to
                 institutional residential care.


6.               Conclusion

6.1              On the whole, the Government and the NGO sector enjoy a positive
                 relationship. The Government is pro-active in enhancing the overall well-
                 being of children, as evidenced by its continuing improvements in healthcare,
                 education and social services for children in Singapore. The
                 recommendations put forth in this paper will further enhance provisions for
                 children, in Singapore’s strive towards reaching levels of excellence as a
                 developed country.



Report prepared by                            :      Children, Youth & Family Services Department
                                                     Service Development Division
Endorsed by                                   :      Benedict Cheong
                                                     Chief Executive Officer
                                                     National Council of Social Service
Address                                       :      170 Ghim Moh Road
                                                     Singapore 279624


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Date                                          :      7 April 2003




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