BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports’ (MCYS) helplines — Talian Kebajikan 141 and Talian Anak 121 — received a cumulative 16,244 calls from January 2020 to January 2021, its minister disclosed on Wednesday.

Fifty-three of the calls made to Talian Anak 121 involved cases such as child abuse, neglect, child custody, and child care center negligence,” YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan POKSMDSP Hj Abidin said in his budget readout at the Legislative Council.

“We are concerned with the 15 cases of child abuse in 2020. The number is high, it should be zero because it shouldn’t happen,” he said.

The minister further said 333 calls made to the two hotlines were related to complaints.

Statistics from the Royal Brunei Police Force showed that the number of child abuse cases rose from 43 in 2014 to 56 in 2018.

The ministry and the telco TelBru (now known as imagine) launched the 24-hour Talian Anak 121 after a rise in the number of child abuse cases between 2014 and 2018.

Callers can dial the hotline to ask for guidance or counselling as well as report cases of abuse, neglect and bullying of children.

The helpline can also be used to report missing children, child trafficking and child pornography.

YB Dato Hj Aminuddin further said 90 children have already been recorded in the ‘Registry of Child and Young Person in Need of Protection’ database ahead of its launch this April.

With the centralised database, agencies can coordinate with one another on investigation, treatment, remedial actions and prevention, he added.

In December last year, the ministry launched the National Framework on Child Protection (NFCP) to improve data collection on vulnerable children. 

The framework provided evidence-based assessment tools for early detection and interventions on child maltreatment.

LegCo member calls for hiring of more social workers

The minister added that there are currently 62 MCYS staff dealing with social welfare issues involving women, children, senior citizens, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.

These staff handle more than 5,000 cases per year, he said.

For cases involving women and children, the minister said the ratio of social worker to such cases is 1:300.

YB Dato Hj Aminuddin gave the figures in response to LegCo member YB Khairunnisa Hj Ash’ari’s call to hire more qualified social workers to deal with the prevalence of social issues such as drug abuse, theft, child abuse and domestic violence.

He said budget has been set aside to hire seven social workers in the 2021/2022 fiscal year, compared to three social workers in the 2020/21 FY.

The minister also acknowledged that MCYS’s social workers do not have a background in social work.

“However, they have undergone training through various platforms at home and abroad such as the Social Service Institute, Singapore’s Ministry of Social Development Families, ASEAN Social Work Consortium, and ASEAN Training Center for Social Work,” he continued.