WAO Wants Funding For Frontline Government Staff Handling Welfare, Abuse

WAO wants at least seven days’ paid paternity leave too.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) urged the government to increase funding for frontline government officers handling welfare and abuse cases, after Budget 2020 was tabled today.

The women’s group said this included welfare officers, health care workers, counsellors, and police officers.

“Currently, there are too few frontline officers, who are overloaded with work,” WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan said in a statement.

WAO also said the government’s RM80 million allocation in Budget 2020 for social welfare bodies shouldn’t just be for facilities, but also for personnel like social workers, counsellors, centre managers, and carers among others.

“It is encouraging that the government has announced RM80 million towards 67 JKM (Social Welfare Department) institutions. Many of these institutions currently lack the capacity and resources to provide comprehensive services – centres and shelters are not just a roof over the head.”

WAO was also pleased with the RM30 million allocation for child care facilities, especially in schools and hospitals.

“Access to child care would enable more women to participate in the workforce, as currently, over 2,563,800 women in Malaysia were not working due to ‘housework or family responsibilities’. There is also an increased tax exemption for child care fees,” Sumitra said.

“Public funding for childcare is critical because childcare is largely out of reach for many parents, especially those from low-income groups. In 2017, only 6.9 per cent of children ages 0 to 4 were enrolled in childcare, according to a World Bank report.

“We would like to see more details on how many parents and children would benefit from this, and whether this benefits lower-income families as well.”

Sumitra urged the government to amend the Employment Act 1955 to provide at least seven days’ paid paternity leave, after the finance minister announced that the law would be revised to increase paid maternity leave in the private sector from 60 to 90 days in 2021.

“We also urge the government to ensure the prohibition of discrimination includes discrimination against job seekers, not just employees. These improvements should also be extended to the Sabah Labour Ordinance and the Sarawak Labour Ordinance.”

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