Thursday 19 March 2015

Care models should go beyond domestic help: Chan Chun Sing

By Siau Ming En, TODAY, 18 Mar 2015

With the Republic facing the challenges of changing family structures and an ageing population, Singaporeans need to look beyond care models of having foreign domestic helpers at home or having institutionalised homes, said Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

Speaking to some 500 social workers at the annual Social Workers’ Day Symposium at Concorde Hotel Singapore, he suggested piloting “self-organising” models that are somewhere in between relying on domestic helpers and on institutionalised homes.

With people living so close to each other here, such as in towns and precincts — unlike in the United States, where communities tend to be spread out — these new models may be able to tap economies of scale, said Mr Chan, in what he deemed as the last formal occasion, for the social work sector, that he was attending as part of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

Mr Chan, who in January was appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress, is scheduled to join the labour movement full time next month.

In his speech, Mr Chan said he hopes to see the improvements in the area of local social science research. Reflecting on his ministry’s work after being in office for about four years, Mr Chan said while a lot of the research work tends to come from overseas, he urged the sector to not shy away from sharing its own work. This may include sharing Singapore’s experience in trying to move beyond providing basic subsistence, such as money transfers, by allowing families to have a sense of ownership through accumulating some assets to plan for the future. Most countries used money transfers to address poverty, Mr Chan noted.

The MSF, he added, has also tried to “bootstrap” standards and protocols so that people beyond the sector will listen to the views of social workers.

During the parliamentary debate on the ministry’s budget last week, the MSF said it would work with the family services sector to implement a Code of Social Work Practice. The code will be enacted across all social services organisations to ensure common professional standards.

Professionals in the sector told TODAY they had noticed improvements in the sector in recent years.

Mr Isaac Teo, from the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre Community Services, said the improvement in social workers’ remuneration had been “heartening” for the sector.

Mr Alvin Chua, president of the Singapore Association of Social Workers, noted that interest in social work had grown, with more mid-career professionals making the switch to become social workers.

MSF work plans 'will go on under new minister'
The Straits Times, 18 Mar 2015

THE work initiated by the Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Chan Chun Sing, in his four years heading the ministry will continue after his departure.

The minister, who joins the National Trades Union Congress full-time as deputy secretary-general on April 1, gave the assurance at a symposium for Social Workers' Day yesterday.

"Whatever we have done in MSF (the ministry) is not because of me; it's not because of one or two persons. It is because, collectively, within MSF (and) together with you, we believe in what we do. And because we believe in what we do, I'm very confident that we will continue to do all that things that we've set out to do," he said.

Mr Chan has been at NTUC part-time since January. He is expected to take over the helm from current Secretary-General Lim Swee Say before Mr Lim turns 62 in July next year.

Yesterday, he highlighted some initiatives of his tenure:
- National database Social Service Net will be rolled out by the second half of the year to enable sharing of information in the social service sector;
- A code of social work practice, announced in Parliament last Friday, to give the sector common protocol.
Mr Chan also said he was confident the sector would teach and train the incoming minister the way it had him.

"You've done so much for me that you will certainly do for the new minister," he said, evoking laughter that who it is, is the "$6 million question".

He said: "In front of me, these 500 people here, and another 1,000 out there who are not here with us today - we have the basic ingredients to be ready for challenging times."

Social worker Isaac Teo from AMKFSC Community Services praised Mr Chan's foresight, saying the pay raises he initiated were "heartening".

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