Monday, 25 March 2013

Pilot scheme to tap trained-but-not-practising social workers

By Kimberly Spykerman, Channel NewsAsia, 23 Mar 2013

A new scheme aims to help plug manpower gaps in the medical social services sector, while hoping to draw social workers who have left back into the fold.

The Adjunct Social Worker Scheme is piloted by the Singapore Association of Social Workers and the Health Ministry.

Some 1,600 social workers and practitioners are registered with the Singapore Association of Social Workers.

But though they are trained, some no longer practise.

It is this group of people the association wants to tap to support manpower needs in nursing homes and hospices, which are in the intermediate and long-term care sector.

Alvin Chua, president of the Singapore Association of Social Workers, said: "This is important...because as an ageing population, we have greater needs in this area. But not a lot of social workers are actually finding employment in this area. 

"So, to actually plug the gap in employment, the association hopes to be a focal point whereby trained but untapped manpower - basically people who are trained social workers but not in full-time employment...(who) want to do part-time work - ...can come to the association and we would be able to match them with agencies that are in need of these manpower needs."

Mr Chua added that while the pilot scheme will focus on filling gaps in medical social services for now, the association eventually hopes to develop a database from where it can draw on these social workers to meet the various manpower needs in the social service sector.

For those who need it, the association will offer refresher training or link them up with more experienced medical social workers to guide them and from whom they can get updated information about the sector and practices.

This means that this group of people who sign up for the scheme will also be able to cover for those who go on long leave, for example on sabbatical or on maternity leave. For now, the association hopes to make up to five successful placements in the first year of the scheme.

The scheme was announced on Saturday at a symposium to celebrate Social Workers Day.

Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, who held a closed-door dialogue with social work practitioners, said the success of the sector cannot be defined by the number of cases it handles or successfully helps.

He said: "More importantly, the role of social work and the role of social workers in this profession is to help us prevent the issues from arising in the first place."

"What it means is we have to go back to the deep-rooted fundamentals of social service work, which is that all of us have to walk around the community, move around the people, understand where are the challenges, at the same time understand where are the capabilities we can harness to build on the strengths of the community to prevent issues from arising into serious and complex problems."

Still, practitioners say more can be done to help people see the value of joining the sector.

Desmurn Lim, senior social worker at Care Corner Family Service Centre, said: "It's also looking at the professional track, because when we look at this as a career, what is it for the individual that they're bringing to the community or to themselves? How could they develop even further as time progresses? So looking at career progression, competency progression, looking at their personal progression, that would be helpful for them."

Some 500 social work practitioners attended the symposium.

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