Big demand for online counselling service
Help given to 500 facing marital, family issues since April, more than target of 200 a year.
An online counselling service to help people facing marital, divorce and parental issues has served more than 500 clients in three months, more than the initial target of 200 per year.
Launched on April 1 as a two-year pilot programme by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) together with the Community Psychology Hub (CPH), the platforms offer anonymity and convenience to couples.
Counselling is provided by professional counsellors through live chats or e-mail.
It is part of pre-divorce efforts, one of three segments with the ministry's existing and upcoming programmes to help support families facing divorce, said an MSF spokesman.
The other two segments relate to issues during and after divorce.
She added: "MSF is developing new areas and services to expand our support to couples early on, should they face challenges in their marriage and need help to resolve their differences."
She said that during the circuit breaker period, MSF and CPH partnered the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs), Parenting Support Providers and volunteer counsellors to successfully scale up the CPH online counselling service in a short time to meet the needs of families under stress. About 60 per cent of those who sought online counselling were facing stress from marriage and divorce.
Others came forward because of parenting, mental health and family-related issues, such as living with in-laws and caregiver stress.
About 60 per cent had presenting issues that existed before Covid-19, and the remaining 40 per cent had issues either caused or made worse by Covid-19-related factors.
To boost pre-divorce support, MSF is developing an online portal where couples considering divorce, particularly those with young children, can get better information and insight into their decision's impact.
Among other things, the portal will provide consolidated information and resources for couples considering divorce, including personalised housing and financial information from the Housing Board and Central Provident Fund Board.
There will also be greater support for divorcing couples in the enhanced Mandatory Parenting Programme (MPP).
Under the MPP, couples would complete an e-learning module, use self-assessment tools to understand their marital situation and their children's needs, and attend personalised sessions with a counsellor from DSSA who could use the information from the self-assessment to provide more customised advice and support.
The first phase of the portal is expected to be ready in the later part of next year, said the MSF spokesman.
To support families undergoing divorce, the MSF funds and oversees six DSSAs. They offer specialised programmes and services delivered by specialist counsellors and social workers to help divorcing and divorced families understand the impact of divorce on children.
Their services have helped many couples and families make more informed decisions on divorce.
Since 2015, the six DSSAs have helped about 25,000 individuals who were considering divorce, divorcing or divorced.
Those who subsequently reconciled were referred to marital therapy to restore and strengthen their marriage.
Others who proceed to divorce continue to receive DSSA support during and after their divorce, especially families with minor children.
They are given help to process their emotions and make post-divorce decisions.
Separately, the Law Ministry said applications for legal aid relating to divorce made up about 36 per cent of the applications to the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) from 2017 to last year.
Legal aid is for citizens and permanent residents who, among other things, must fulfil a means test.
Said the Law Ministry spokesman: "LAB has not yet seen any significant impact on case volume and management as a result of Zoom hearings and other modifications provided for in the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act."
Details of the CPH Online Counselling Service are available at: www.cphonlinecounselling.sg
Details on legal aid, assistance and advice are available at the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) website: https://lab.mlaw.gov.sg
LAB has incorporated some common queries on the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act in its newly launched chatbot, the Intelligent Legal Assistance Bot (iLAB), which can be accessed on the LAB website.
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