Sun Xueling urges caution in posting photos, videos of vulnerable persons on social media

SINGAPORE – In trying to help the vulnerable and the needy, the public should be cautious about taking photos and videos and posting about their plight on social media, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling.

The most appropriate and effective way to help is to introduce and direct these vulnerable people to an officer from the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) social service offices, so that professional aid can be given, she added.

Ms Sun was responding in Parliament on Monday (Aug 2) to Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) on measures to assist the likes of cardboard collectors, beggars and rough sleepers in the community.

Ms Phua had also suggested that the MSF invest more in “aggressive” public education to discourage people in the habit of posting photos and videos of the needy on social media.

Noting that this was mostly done without permission, she said: “These kinds of efforts actually do not render sustainable help for the persons in need… and (are) sometimes not very respectful of those who need help.”

In May, videos shared and posted by The Online Citizen Asia alleging police bullying of an elderly woman with dementia drew rebuke from the authorities and Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.

The alternative news site in July rejected a request by the woman’s son to apologise for a video interview of her that it had put up.

Agreeing with Ms Phua, Ms Sun said: “When you put up a video or you put up a photo, apart from the fact that you might be infringing on the privacy as well as confidentiality of the vulnerable person, sometimes you may be bringing unwanted attention to the vulnerable person.”

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This may not lead to better outcomes for the person and might worsen family relationships, which sometimes are the underlying reason for the vulnerable person’s plight, she added.

Earlier, Ms Sun outlined various schemes and initiatives to support the needy, such as the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers network, which may refer them to overnight community-based shelters.

Those who need short-term accommodation and onsite intervention can seek shelter at MSF-funded transitional shelters, where social workers can help individuals address various underlying social issues and get stable long-term housing. 

“For tissue sellers and cardboard collectors, befriending groups from the Vulnerable-in-Community  network engage them to find out their needs and bring them into the social support system if they are willing,” Ms Sun added, citing how individuals who need financial help are referred to social service offices.

She encouraged members of the public who come across rough sleepers, cardboard collectors or tissue paper sellers in need to contact the ComCare hotline on 1800-222-0000 or refer them to the nearest social service office. 


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