Thursday, 24 July 2014

Social services should be included in infrastructure planning: Chan Chun Sing

By Faris Mokhtar, Channel NewsAsia, 22 Jul 2014

The social service sector must be elevated to be equally important as national defence and healthcare, said Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (July 22), at a conference organised by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS).

The key instruments of nation-building are generally a strong defence, a successful economy and a good healthcare system. But the social service sector needs to be part of the equation, said the minister: "Let us in the social service sector unite together and elevate social service to the same level as we talk about defence, economic success. Because the social service can provide that glue that will bond us together as a society."

Mr Chan said social services must be included in infrastructure planning, because "it is part and parcel of our infrastructure, very much just as roads, traffic light, and road signs".

Manpower crunch remains an issue for the sector, which has a high turnover rate. To attract and retain talent, a new scheme will be rolled out to groom potential leaders who will be exposed to a range of issues and job scopes.

Mr Fermin Diez, Deputy CEO and Group Division Human Capital Development of NCSS, said the turnover rate is over 20 percent - higher than most other sectors. "It is a hard life, it is hard work. To attract is also difficult for the same reasons - in terms of coming in, being able to find adequate work conditions, good pay, good training, good ability to develop career opportunities. That's a lot of the work we're doing."

The Council also wants to boost its volunteer numbers - through a new Volunteer Resource Optimisation programme. It will put in place systems for recruitment, training and deployment of volunteer resources.

NCSS CEO Sim Gim Guan said there will be consultation with various voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) in the coming months to determine the level of interest in the use of volunteers, the scope of work and the feasibility of a structured volunteer management plan.

There will be two tracks to developing the sector, he said. "One is, of course, professionalising the sector through development of our people. And secondly, engaging the community to complement sector professionals."

Professor Kishore Mahbubani, the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, also spoke at the conference. He said social workers will become more important as Singapore faces rising social challenges, including issues related to identity, inequality and immigrants.

He said the first 50 years of Singapore's growth was exceptional because of political stability and remarkable economic growth. "But I can tell you that we are to go from being an exceptional nation to becoming a normal nation. Which is you now have to live with some degree of unpredictability and some degree of economic uncertainty. The question therefore for Singapore's future is how resilient are we as a society, how ready are we to meet these new challenges."

NCSS to develop framework for volunteer organisations
Systems for recruitment, training and deployment of volunteers will also be set up
TODAY, 23 Jul 2014

The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) will be developing a volunteer management framework for the social sector, as part of plans to beef up volunteer resources and develop the expertise of social service professionals.

This could include a recognition system within voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) to attract and retain quality volunteers and creating more development and training programmes.

Called the Volunteer Resource Optimisation (VRO) programme, it will also redesign selected programmes and job processes within VWOs and put in place systems for recruitment, training and deployment of volunteers.

In the coming months, the NCSS will be engaging VWOs to determine the level of interest in the use of volunteers, the scope of work and the feasibility of a volunteer management plan, said the council’s chief executive officer Sim Gim Guan, who announced the programme at the NCSS Members Conference yesterday.

While the programme is in the early stages of planning, VWOs that TODAY spoke to welcomed the idea. Executive director of Lions Befrienders Goh Boo Han said such a programme might help attract more volunteers to its cause. Currently, the organisation has more than 1,000 volunteers, half of whom are in their 20s and 30s. “NCSS is able to reach out to a wider audience and through the exposure, more people may find that the work we do is suitable for them,” said Mr Goh.

For bigger organisations such as the HCA Hospice Care, which already has its own volunteer management system that collects data on its volunteers’ skills and service gaps that need to be filled by volunteers, the system can help in terms of improving volunteer retention, said its chief executive officer and medical director R Akhileswaran.

While some of the hospice’s events can attract between 400 and 500 ad hoc volunteers, there are currently only 140 to 180 regular volunteers, he said. The NCSS also plans to further develop talent and leadership in the sector, with the development of a new manpower unit.

The unit will come up with a new scheme to groom a core group of leaders and talents who possess knowledge and experience in the sector.

The council hopes to have a pool of about 300 leaders over the next three to five years. This group will guided by mentors, gain exposure in a wide range of social service issues, organisations and job scopes and will be given opportunities to learn from veterans in the sector.

Speaking at a conference attended by 550 participants, NCSS president Hsieh Fu Hua said that while the sector had always drawn on the many hands that have given their time and effort, a “heart of gold” was not enough. “We have to move into a mindset of capabilities, solutions and resources,” he said.

Expanding the scope of social service
Editorial, The Straits Times, 31 Jul 2014

THE character of social service is determined fundamentally by its devotion to the poor, the underprivileged and the disadvantaged. This is natural because society is only as strong as its weakest links, and social service therefore means serving the most vulnerable.

Whether countries are poor or prosperous, the calling of social service - which draws some of the most dedicated men and women to the sector as professionals or volunteers - hinges on the perceived nature of the needs in a society.

Of course, needs take various forms. Financial need is the most obvious of them, but there are other kinds of need that are no less insistent. Singapore society is at a transitional point where the material needs of the majority of citizens have largely been met, but new needs have emerged in the form of social stresses that are related to ageing, immigration and national identity issues. To serve society in these times is to address these evolving needs while not forgetting the primary duty of caring for the poor.

The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) will be a key institution in bridging the two worlds of Singapore. Just how crucial its role would be was suggested by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, who has urged the sector to aspire to a larger vision in which social services act as the fourth key pillar of national success, as much as defence, economy and housing. This indeed is a worthy vision, and is realisable if state, market and society act together. Just as the tripartite relationship between the Government, unions and management underpins economic growth, private-public partnerships must reinvigorate the social service sector.

The effort will not start from scratch because the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre exemplifies some ways in which the grand vision can be pursued by responding more keenly to areas of public enthusiasm such as the arts, sports and the environment.

These might appear to be "soft" areas, but they play an intangible role in the country's sense of itself and help to unite people across class and ethnicity. The NCSS can build on the centre's work on a larger scale to keep society integrated and healthy during a new phase of national development.

Attracting and retaining volunteers and professionals, apart from managing costs, will remain the core challenge for the social service sector.

However, that challenge will be easier to meet if Singaporeans realise that the sector is not an optional add-on to the landscape of national resilience but an extension of the very structures that have created and strengthened contemporary Singapore.

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