SUSS Service-Learning Sectors: Children & Youth

According to the Children and Young Person Act 2001, a “child” is a person below the age of 14 and a “young person” means a person who is 14 years of age or above but below the age of 16 years. The United Nations define youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years. In October 1995, Singapore became signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), pledging its commitment to help children when they are in an environment of abuse and neglect. The UNCRC defines a “child” as someone below the age of 18.

While there are laws, policies, and services to protect children and youth from harm and exploitation, it is important to bear in mind that a person is part of a larger ecosystem consisting of family, peers, school, neighbourhood, community, and nation. What happens within the ecosystem will influence and impact the growth and development of a young person.

Being vulnerable is typically understood as being in a defenseless position, liable to being hurt physically or emotionally. However, it can also be defined as “exposure to uninsured risk leading to socially unacceptable levels of well-being”. Hence, a young person who is exposed to unmitigated risks that affects his or her well-being in the context found unacceptable by the community can be considered to be vulnerable.

In Singapore, different agencies have varying definitions of youth at-risk. The National Committee on Youth Guidance and Rehabilitation (NYRC) from the Ministry of Social and Family Development had launched a pilot program in April 2016, called the Youth-At-Risk Engagement (YARE) Framework, which will help to standardise assessment tools to better assess the risk level and needs of youths.

The 3 key aspects of dependency for a young person are:

1. Material – food, shelter, financial, health care and education;
2. Emotional – love, care, support, and space for healthy emotional development; and
3. Social – peer group, role models, and guidance for healthy social-emotional development.

The risk factors of vulnerability in young people can include health issues such as physical/mental disability and chronic illness, poverty, lack of social-emotional support and guidance due to absent/ abusive/ divorced/ single parents, high absenteeism for school, poor academic performance, academic stress, addictions in cyber/substance abuse/ drinking/ sexual activities/ gambling, peer bullying, etc. Besides chronic risk factors, a sudden change in the family situation (e.g. death of breadwinner, large debt due to medical illness or gambling) can also lead a young person through a downward spiral of vulnerability.

The above perspectives and factors should be considered when exploring opportunities to serve the vulnerable children and youth in Singapore. For example, when you engage a community partner to offer tutoring services, you may wish to consider the responsibility as a role model and mentor to provide social-emotional support and guidance to a young person who may lack this area of support. You may also wish to explore how to engage young people in learning to set them onto a positive cycle of increased confidence and self-esteem when they do well in school. Other Service-Learning opportunities include exploring ways to help young people develop self-esteem, confidence, resilience, positive mind-set, stress management competencies, positive social relations, and healthy lifestyle against addictive and destructive behaviours.

(Last updated as of July 10th, 2019)

1. Singapore Statutes Online: Children and Young Persons Act (Chapter 38)
2. Definition of Youth by UN:
3. Protection of Children in Singapore:
4. Hoogeveen, J., Tesliuc, E., Vakis, R., & Dercon, S. (2004). A guide to the analysis of risk, vulnerability and vulnerable groups. World Bank. Washington, DC. Available on line at http://siteresources. worldbank. org/INTSRM/Publications/20316319/RVA. pdf (Invalid)
5. Arora, S. K., Shah, D., Chaturvedi, S., & Gupta, P. (2015). Defining and measuring vulnerability in young people. Indian journal of community medicine: official publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine, 40(3), 193.
6. World Bank’s Policy Framework: (Invalid)
12. Singapore Social Statistics in Brief 2016
13. Probation Service Annual Report 2015

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