Written Answer by Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, on Legal Aid by Family Members of Mentally Disabled for Appointment as Deputies
2 Oct 2018 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Mr Murali Pillai (Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok SMC)
To ask the Minister for Law with regard to the expanded means test applicable to mentally disabled persons who are unable to work, whether the Ministry can treat legal aid applications by family members of the mentally disabled persons for appointment as deputies to manage their personal affairs as applications being made for and on behalf of the mentally disabled (instead of the individual family members) thereby entitling the legal aid applications to be assessed on the expanded means test.
A legal aid application for deputyship has to be made in the name of the family member seeking to be made a deputy, as deputyship proceedings in the Courts are commenced in the family member’s name. The application for legal aid should thus be assessed on the means of the applicant for deputyship. It is not possible for legal aid applications to be made for, or on behalf of, the mentally incapacitated person, and then to use that person’s means to support the legal aid application.
Legal aid is provided to low-income Singaporeans who cannot afford their own lawyers. To qualify for legal aid, the family member has to pass the means test. For the past 3 years, about 85% of legal aid applications for deputyship matters passed the preliminary means test.
We should add that the Ministry of Law intends to restructure the legal aid means test. This is intended to be achieved by the Legal Aid and Advice (Amendment) Bill which has been introduced. Instead of the applicant’s disposable income, we will be seeking to use Per Capita Household Income (PCHI) to assess means. PCHI takes into account both the income of the applicant applying for deputyship and the income of the mentally incapacitated patient, if they live in the same household. We will also provide greater flexibility to provide targeted help to applicants with extenuating circumstances.
Finally, Singaporeans may wish to plan ahead and make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). One key advantage of an LPA is that an individual, who has the requisite mental capacity, is able to choose his proxy decision maker, and discuss the LPA with his family so that his wishes are made known in advance. Crucially, if there is an existing LPA, family members of that individual also need not apply to the Courts to be appointed as deputies to make certain decisions on behalf of the individual if he lacks mental capacity, thereby saving expenses and time. The fee waiver for Singaporeans making an LPA has been extended to 31 August 2020, to encourage more Singaporeans to make an LPA.
Last updated on 04 Oct 2018