One of the relatively unknown heroes and heroines in the civil service are the folks at the Community Development Department or Jabatan Pembangunan Masyarakat. This is the department that served the welfare needs of everyone in the nation. It used to be part of the old Department of Sports and Welfare when it split to become the Social Services Section and later the Social Affairs Unit at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports before becoming a fully fledged department in 2002. This department is concerned with all sorts of welfare issues including women's issues, children's issues, handicapped, old age, abuse victims, rape victims etc. Sometimes I feel that whoever works here is in a thankless situation and deserves double pay.
JAPEM as it is popularly known is responsible for several social services legislations such as the Protection of Young Girls Act, Children's Act, Old Age and Handicapped Act, Family Act etc. It looks after several welfare centres including temporary shelter homes as well as run education establishment for the handicaps and the victims. It provides counselling services to battered and abuse wives and children (and sometimes husbands too), troubled families, uncontrollable children and youths. It also provides financial assistance to those in need as well as administer the old age pensions and other handicap pensions. JAPEM also tries to help those in need of matrimony - along the lines of the Social Development Unit in Singapore. In short it caters for everyone who eventually runs into problems.
The financial assistance can be quite large especially if one has a very large family but generally it is only meant to to be token assistance. For single mothers, the financial assistance is made up of $200 per month for the mother and $65 for each child as well as $60 of education allowance for each child who are still in school. Prior to 1999, there used to be a maximum of $490 per family but since then, there has been no maximum. The allowances are given to families who are in need including those whose parents were imprisoned or detained for criminal offences. JAPEM also provides rice to families in need and other assistance as well.
As for old age pensions that JAPEM administers, the government provides its citizens a pension of $200 per person above the age of 60. Unlike in the western world, these pensioners were required to contribut to a fund before they retire, in Brunei, they do not have to do anything. They will automatically get it when they reach 60. Altogether the government pays about 16,000 of its citizens. The government also pays pensions to other handicaps such as the blind etc.
The department has made available some of its statistics on the website. However the more troubling statistics are cases of incest (rape by family members) where from 1999 up to 2005, out of 36 cases, 5 were committed by grandfathers and 14 were committed by fathers. What is happening to this world? If you can't trust your grandfather and your father, who else can you trust?
It's a thankless job and I salute those who worked there. If you need to find out more about the Community Development Department, do visit its website on www.japem.gov.bn or you can always drop by their office at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports at Jalan Kebangsaan.