Monday, 18 May 2015

Sign-on bonuses, paid job-shadowing stints to draw more to eldercare

By Linette Lai And Gilaine Ng, The Straits Times, 16 May 2015

AS SINGAPOREANS age, there is growing demand for people to care for them - but not enough people applying for such jobs.

To plug this gap, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) will launch a one-year trial of several schemes to draw new faces to the eldercare sector.

These include paid job-shadowing stints, training courses, and sign-on bonuses for support staff.

For example, Singaporeans of any age who want to know what care providers do can sign up for a three-day "discovery programme".

During this time, they will be attached to a care provider - such as a nursing home or senior activity centre - and paid an allowance of $120 upon completing the stint.

Those seeking a more in-depth experience can opt for a five-week skills upgrading course involving 40 hours of lessons and 160 hours of on-the-job training.

At the end of it, participants will be qualified to work as healthcare assistants who help nurses care for elderly patients.

Typically, such employees get paid between $1,000 and $1,500 a month, said Dr Seow Yong Tong, deputy chief of AIC's community care division.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who announced the moves at the AIC's biennial community care forum yesterday, said: "The community care sector is a sunrise sector that offers many good job opportunities for Singaporeans who wish to pursue a meaningful career."

Dr Irwin Chung, who chairs the forum's scientific committee, said: "We need not belabour the point that Singapore faces a rapidly ageing population, with one in five residents here expected to be aged 65 years and above by 2030."

AIC will organise job fairs to recruit people, starting with one next Tuesday near Yishun MRT station.

Singaporeans who join the care sector as support staff from next month will also get a bonus equivalent to one month's salary after they have worked for a year.

The pilot schemes will run until the end of May next year.

All Saints Home chief executive Eugene Yeo hopes the new initiatives will also be able to tap people looking for part-time work with flexible hours, such as housewives. "Many new young graduates would want to go to restructured hospitals to work. But if you want flexibility and shorter (work) timings, maybe you can consider a nursing home."

Despite the draw, some already have their hands full. Ms Valerie Tan, who is in her 50s, is a full-time caregiver for her 88-year-old mother. "I'm too busy looking after my own parent to consider caregiving for others."

But Mr James Teo, 53, who works part-time as an elder-sitter for the Alzheimer's Disease Association, thinks he might give the job a try. "I work on a case-by-case basis, so I have a lot of spare time," he said. "The flexible working hours mean it could easily fit into my schedule."

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