Saturday 11 February 2012

Govt to build 10 more family service centres (FSCs) to bring help closer

Channel NewsAsia, 9 Feb 2012

The government is committing S$30 million to enhance the capabilities of Family Service Centres (FSC) to reach out to vulnerable families.

This brings the total amount it has committed for the next three years to S$100 million.

Speaking at this year's FSC seminar, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Chan Chun Sing, said the ministry plans to build another 10 full or branch FSCs to bring help nearer to the community.

Currently, there are 39 FSCs with two more in the pipeline at Admiralty and Punggol.

Mr Chan said MCYS will also encourage FSCs in a geographical area to cluster together and work with other community partners to provide more integrated services.

He added: "For example, Ang Mo Kio is one big town. If you only have one centre to serve the whole Ang Mo Kio, first, I think everybody needs to travel a bit more. 

"But when you have a branch FSC, then certain branches can first be nearer to the community. That reduces the time people have to travel to seek services. The other thing is that certain branches can also focus on issues that are closer to the particular community."

The first branch FSC will be set up in Ang Mo Kio in the second half of the year and it is good news for 38-year-old Norlinda Mohd Yusof.

Madam Norlinda, who is getting financial help from the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre to supplement her husband's monthly income of about S$1,300, needs to catch a feeder bus from her flat in Avenue 6 to the centre at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.

She said: "Due to my situation, I'd like a nearby place. There's no need for me to take bus or transport. Sometimes, when they give me food rations or there are a lot of things (to carry), I have to take a taxi. Taxi is not so cheap right now so it's better to have a nearby place."

The Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres' executive director Vincent Ng said: "Usually the catchment of one to two kilometre radius (of the FSC) is where the clients will tend to come to look for help. But FSCs cover quite a large service boundary. Sometimes, the areas that are further away from the family service centres, we find that the residents over there who need help might not be so forthcoming in coming because it might be very troublesome for them to change bus, take a bus or walk for a distance."

The next full-fledged FSC in Jurong will be ready in mid-2013.

Mr Chan also wants to encourage FSCs in a geographical area to cluster together to work with other community partners to provide more integrated services and this means having clusters to share caseloads, best practices and manage cases more holistically.

He added that each cluster should also provide more specialised services for emerging needs.

For example, there is currently only one FSC that provides services for addiction management.

But he said the plan is to have some capabilities within each cluster to handle addiction management to provide more responsive services and reduce travel distances for those who need help.

The increased funding will also allow Family Service Centres to hire more social service professionals. This is expected to reduce workload by about 20 per cent, bringing the number of cases handled by each social worker down from 50 to 40.

Daniel Chien, Chief Operating Officer (FSC), Care Corner Singapore, said: "Even though the previous plan was based on one worker to 50, we often see workers stretching far beyond that to 60 or even more. Increasing the number of funding for workers and reducing the caseload per worker to 40, or by 20 per cent, essentially means we'll get a few more headcount.

"That will share the load for the staff handling the cases better, and I think it will also give them more self care before they find that it's too much to cope. At the same time, I believe it benefits the client. A worker who handles lesser cases is more focused and more able to do a better intervention and follow up with the clients."
The ministry is also planning offer more opportunities for social workers to advance professionally.

Helping families by helping service centres
Govt commits S$30m more to build 10 new centres, hire more staff and fund activities
by Neo Chai Chin, TODAY, 10 Feb 2012

Family service centres (FSCs) were given S$30 million more in financial muscle yesterday, which would enable them to better serve needy families by hiring more staff and reducing social workers' caseloads.

This brings the total funds committed by the Government for the next three years to S$100 million, said Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing at the FSC Seminar.

Ten more FSCs - the first stop for distressed residents - will also be built over the next three years, in addition to two new ones slated for Admiralty and Punggol. The Government will also introduce the concept of "branch FSCs", which will be an offshoot of a full FSC but sited closer to some members of a community and focusing on issues that are closer to their hearts, said Mr Chan. Some of the 10 new FSCs will be "branch FSCs", with the first to be set up in Ang Mo Kio in the second half of this year.

Calling FSCs "a critical component" of Singapore's social service delivery system, Mr Chan noted that the Republic is seeing more singles, reconstituted families and an ageing population.

With more intense global competition, some Singaporeans will find it harder to find employment and jobs with reasonable pay, he said. It will compound the challenges of social mobility, and "if we cannot break out of the poverty cycle in one generation, we want to provide hope and support for the next generation to do so".

Volatile economic cycles will also make it hard for some families to provide a "stable and wholesome environment for children to develop", said Mr Chan.

From April, each FSC will receive funding to hire one additional social service professional to improve its outreach to vulnerable families and foster closer collaboration with community groups.

And from October, the caseload of FSC social workers will decrease by 20 per cent, from one worker handling 50 cases, to one worker handling 40 cases.

"They can refocus and give more time and attention, especially to high-risk families," said Fei Yue Family Service Centre assistant director Rachel Lee Siang Ju, who added that this would increase job satisfaction and help reduce burnout.

Asked if a 20-per-cent reduction in caseload was sufficient, Care Corner Singapore's chief operating officer (FSC) Daniel Chien said: "It all depends on the intensity of the cases we handle. I know (the ratio) in other countries may be even lower, but for a start, I think that is a very good move."

Going forward, Mr Chan said FSCs in the same geographical area will be encouraged to form clusters - likely mirroring the five districts served by their respective community development councils - to share caseloads and best practices. Each cluster may also develop selected centres of excellence, such as in addiction management.

Beyond the measures announced yesterday, the FSCs said remuneration and recognition of social workers and counsellors need to be addressed further, and called for more corporate sponsors to contribute. Fei Yue's Ms Lee noted that the sector loses some people to the teaching profession as the latter pays better, while Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres executive director Vincent Ng said more sponsors and donations would allow them to help their clients more.

New branch will help more residents
by Neo Chai Chin

She now takes a feeder bus, with young children in tow, to the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre along Ang Mo Kio Ave 3. When Mdm Norlinda Mohamad Yusof receives rations of rice, instant noodles, sugar and milk, a taxi ride home becomes necessary.

But later this year, when the FSC's branch is set up at Blk 643, Ang Mo Kio Ave 5, help will be a stone's throw away for the mother of four.

Mdm Norlinda, whose children are aged 11 months to 15, went to the FSC for help with her children's school pocket money in 2007 as her husband's income as a pest control technician was insufficient.

She now receives about S$200 in assistance each month, and social worker Patricia Wee also helps in her liaison with KK Women's and Children's Hospital when her children need medical attention. One of her daughters has chronic asthma, her eight-year-old son has allergies, while the youngest has suspected asthma.

Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres executive director Vincent Ng said the new branch, sited near some rental flats, will be about the same size as its parent FSC and offer more community programmes for nearby residents. "From casework trends and work on the ground, there are certain pockets of the community with difficulty coming (to the existing centre)," he said.

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