Published: 04 March 2021
Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what progress has the Ministry made on collecting data on the number of drug users whose parents were themselves drug users; and (b) whether the Government will use this information in reviewing its policies to address drug abuse.
1. The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) and Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) do not collect data on the number of drug users whose parents were themselves drug users.
2. However, in 2017, SPS conducted a study on how parental drug abuse impacts the next generation. The study investigated the prevalence of offending amongst children (aged 12 years old and above) with drug-abusing parents, based on a ten-year cohort of drug admissions into prison between 2008 and 2017.
3. The study found that about one in five (21.6%) drug-abusing parents had at least one child who had committed offences (i.e. incarcerated in prison, sent to a juvenile home or placed under probation).
4. In the study, children with drug-abusing parents reported weakened attachment to their parents due to parent-child separation when one or both parents were incarcerated, and they often felt lonely and neglected. As a result of their parents’ drug abuse, the children also reported being exposed to drug utensils and drugs at home. This increased their tolerance towards drug abuse and the likelihood of them abusing drugs subsequently.
5. The study also revealed several factors that increase the risk of child offending. Children who have offended were found to have engaged in and maintained their offending behaviour as a result of inadequate supervision and control by their parents or caregiver. Further, growing up in a household with drug abuse or having anti-social influences in their immediate circle of friends increased the risk of the children engaging in offending behaviour. The children may also follow in the footsteps of their drug-abusing parents due to a desire to connect with them.
6. The study identified possible protective factors that could mitigate the impact of parental drug abuse and incarceration on the child. These include having strong social support to ensure that the child remains well-taken care of emotionally, physically and mentally, and keeping the child engaged and occupied with pro-social activities.
7. The findings of the study affirmed much of SPS’s ongoing efforts to reduce the impact of offending on an offender’s family. SPS facilitates the prompt identification and referral of the needs of offenders’ families, including their children, to resources in the community. For instance, under the Yellow Ribbon Community Project, grassroots volunteers visit families whose loved ones are incarcerated, to assess their needs and concerns, for subsequent intervention. The Family Resource Centres work with SPS to address problems faced by inmates and their family, such as financial, accommodation or familial problems. The Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders (CARE) Network, of which SPS, other government agencies and social services agencies are members, delivers programmes and services aimed at addressing the impact of parental incarceration, such as counselling, tuition assistance, parenting programmes, and family bonding programmes.