Singapore

Volunteer probation officers lauded at 50th anniversary event for scheme which supports ex-offenders


SINGAPORE – Emily (not her real name) was in a rough patch – she was in conflict with her family and had fallen in with bad company – when she was arrested for housebreaking in November 2019.

She was ordered to complete 130 hours of community service and placed on probation for 21 months as a result of the offence.

But what Emily, 21, saw as a forced chore eventually became a source of joy and fulfilment.

She was put in touch with a probation officer who guided her in her efforts to mend ties with her family, stay away from bad company and gain her confidence again.

She said: “When I was first asked to do community service, I felt sad and daunted as I had to commit to something that I have never done before. The 130 hours of community service was a lot and I was not sure if I could complete it.

“But I felt welcomed and accepted like a family member when I did community service. They saw the potential in me.”

Emily has served more than 60 hours so far and is currently doing so at the Marsiling Youth Network. She is planning to look for a job soon.

She is one of more than 1,700 probationers who have been supervised by Voluntary Probation Officers (VPOs) since 2016. VPOs check in on probationers regularly in the community and have also supported more than 250 probationers with more complex needs by engaging them over an average period of 18 to 24 months.

On Tuesday (Nov 30), the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) commemorated the 50th anniversary of the VPO scheme with a virtual event attended by more than 150 volunteers.

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Launched in 1971, the scheme promotes volunteer participation and community awareness in the rehabilitation of offenders, and currently includes 280 volunteers.

In his opening address at the virtual event, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Eric Chua commended the volunteers for their efforts to help offenders in their rehabilitation process.

He said: “Over the years, the VPO scheme has grown from strength to strength. We see our volunteers getting themselves more invested in the scheme as they come together to initiate, plan and lead activities such as community service projects, training, programmes and sessions to prepare probationers for their enlistment into national service.”

The event also marked the 25th anniversary of the Community Service scheme, which provides opportunities for probationers to make amends for their offences and cultivate a sense of responsibility to the community.

Since 2016, probationers have clocked over 200,000 hours of community service, guided by community service agencies here. There are currently 130 community service agencies under the scheme.

Noting the impact of the pandemic on both schemes, Mr Chua said that the Government would continue to strengthen its partnerships with community service agencies and VPOs in the future to better serve youth and the community.

“The support of VPOs and community service agencies remain even more critical as we navigate the challenges and find creative means to remain relevant and progressive in our work with the youths. One fundamental truth remains – community rehabilitation will not be possible without the community.”





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