Law Awareness is a biennial outreach initiative undertaken by the Law Society to provide the general public with insights into, and a greater awareness of, topical legal issues.
On 1st October 2011, the Law Society's Law Awareness Committee launched “Law Cares”, an initiative that focuses on the elderly and the legal issues that face them and their care givers.
Law Cares aims to:
(a) raise awareness of legal issues that affect the daily lives of the elderly on eldercare related legal matters such as maintenance of parents, will-writing, probate/HDB related issues, the Mental Capacity Act/Lasting Power of Attorney;
(b) raise awareness of legal issues that concern death;
(c) establish a platform to collate research on the common types of legal issues that the elderly face;
(d) highlight the legal needs of the elderly and their caregivers; and
(e) connect volunteer lawyers/ law students with voluntary welfare organizations that provide elderly care in the interest of fostering pro bono collaboration.
The 1st October 2011 launch was marked by a series of law awareness eldercare talks and discussions for volunteer welfare organisations in the eldercare sector at the Singapore Management University Ngee Ann Kongsi auditorium. The key speakers were the Commissioner for the Maintenance of Parents Mr Khoo Oon Soo, The Public Guardian Mr Daniel Koh, Consultant Geriatrician Dr David Dai and Dr Gopalan Raman, an authority on Probate, Wills and Trusts in Singapore. A special recognition ceremony was held at the start of the launch to thank Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee for his steadfast support through the years for the Law Awareness initiative.
On the 2 October 2011, legal clinics to the elderly were held at the Assisi Hospice and Ren Ci Nursing Home to take into account mobility difficulties of the elderly residents who would have found it otherwise physically very difficult to access legal clinic advice at the usual legal clinic centres. The administration of the legal clinics was supported by volunteer law students from the NUS Pro Bono Group and the SMU Pro Bono Club.
This year, in continuation of the established theme of focusing on the Elderly, the Law Society partnered up with the NUS Pro Bono Group, the SMU Pro Bono Club and Lions Befrienders to pioneer “The Golden Years Project”.
The project, headed by the Freshmen Orientation Camp Committee, kicked off with a training session held on 1st August 2012, at the NUS Law Auditorium. Freshmen volunteers from NUS & SMU, as well as representatives from Lions Befrienders and The Law Society were in attendance. Volunteers were given insights into the meaningfulness of doing pro bono work, as well as a briefing from Lions Befrienders in regards to how to approach and converse with an elderly person. Groups were also carefully assigned to a specific elderly’s home, keeping in mind that at least 1 person in the group was able to converse with the elderly in their preferred language.
The main events of the project comprised of 2 parts:
On 4th August 2012, freshmen law student volunteers from NUS and SMU cleaned the homes of 17 households of non-ambulant elderly living in the Ghim Moh estate. After home cleaning was completed, the teams of 4-5 students had lunch with the elderly whose home they cleaned, taking the opportunity to get to know them better and to find out more about their needs, legal or otherwise. For residents who were in need of legal assistance and interested in talking to a lawyer, the students helped to take down case history and register them for a legal clinic session organised by The Law Society.
The second part of the project consisted of an on-site legal clinic session held on the following Saturday, 11th August 2012, at the Lions Befrienders Senior Activity Centre in Ghim Moh. Having the clinic session within the estate was beneficial for the non-ambulant elderly who were not in a position to freely travel to the regularly held legal clinics at North West and South East CDCs. In addition to the 6 residents who had registered for the clinic at the Clean Up event held the week before, another 3 elderly residents signed up on the day itself.
Volunteer lawyers from the Law Awareness Committee were on hand to dispense legal advice and were supported by volunteer law students from the NUS Pro Bono Group and the SMU Pro Bono Club.
This joint project by NUS and SMU law undergraduates fulfils an important function in helping the public as well as raising awareness about social needs and the relevance of the law to those in need. It is commendable that these law students are, at the outset of their careers, making the effort to foster a strong ‘pro bono’ spirit and to provide meaningful assistance to a growing portion of the public that is most in need. The Law Society is honoured, as part of its “Law Cares” initiative, to partner the NUS Pro Bono Group, the SMU Pro Bono Club and Lions Befrienders in “The Golden Years Project”.
Law Cares is continuing in 2012 with a series of seminars/workshops for the elderly in collaboration with the Lien Foundation whose philanthropic practices and values are aligned with that of Law Cares. In particular the Lien Foundation is an active proponent for improving eldercare through its “Life Before Death” campaign that was started in 2006 with the primary objective of promoting conversation on end-of-life issues, raising awareness about hospice palliative care and improving the care for the dying.