More support for aftercare professionals and volunteers working with ex-offenders

Aftercare professionals and volunteers working with ex-offenders will get more training and guidance under a new framework that will be ready later this year, announced Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday.

The framework will be drawn up by CARE Network, an umbrella organisation that assists ex-offenders, and will have training programmes that include specialised counselling for drug addiction as well as befriending skills.

CARE Network is made up of eight core members, which include the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Singapore Prison Service, and the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises. Over 100 other agencies have also become network partners.

The network hopes that the upcoming framework will improve the competencies of volunteers and professionals, as well as plug gaps in the industry by tapping on the experience of aftercare agencies.

About 1,000 repeat drug offenders are expected to be released yearly until 2015, resulting in the need for greater coordination among organisations to help ex-offenders stay out of jail, said Mr Masagos.

Aftercare professionals and volunteers have expressed the need for better preparation, which would in turn help them handle the changing profile and reintegration needs of inmates leaving prison more effectively.

Ms Fadzillah Habi Mohamed, who works with the Singapore After-Care Association (SACA), said: “A lot of volunteers feel (that) they’re not so prepared when they’re face to face with clients… They wouldn’t know how to say yes and no in such a way that they don’t close the gap completely… So how do befrienders say no, in a way that they can still continue the relationship?”

Some also noted that a more structured training programme provided by the framework will attract as well as retain more volunteers. Aftercare organisations currently carry out most of their own training programmes.

“Some of them feel (that) they may not be fully equipped to handle the hardcore offender…so they don’t want to do voluntary work. There are many of them (out there),“ said Ms Vickneswarie Dhoraisingam, a volunteer with SACA.

Close to S$500,000 has been set aside to build the network’s competencies, which includes developing the framework.

Chng Hwee Hong, chairman of the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises, said: “All the VWOs (Voluntary Welfare Organisations) have done a good job so far. Each and every one is an expert in their own area… so the purpose of CARE Network is to make sure that we work as one team and we align ourselves so we can learn from each other, so (that) we can avoid wastage.”

Source: CNA