Sunday 22 November 2015

National career framework for social workers launched

Boost for social work sector
Career roadmap aims to help staff upgrade skills to earn more, and stay in profession
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 21 Nov 2015

Misconceptions that social workers are unpaid volunteers persist although the profession has a history stretching more than six decades.

So, in one of the most significant moves to professionalise the sector so far, a national career roadmap was launched yesterday.

This will give such workers a guide to upgrade their skills in order to advance in their jobs and earn more.

The move aims to ease the social service sector's longstanding problems of staff leaving due to low pay, limited career progression and the lack of a structured career pathway.

There are 1,600 registered social workers. To meet the needs of the ageing population, about 90 more are needed yearly.

Social issues now tend to be more complex and multi-faceted so the National Social Work Competency Framework aims to standardise job expectations in multiple settings such as healthcare or community- based social services.

Speaking at its launch, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said: "The framework recognises there are common qualities that we all need and a lot of overlap in the work that we do.

"Some social issues don't involve healthcare but a lot of it invariably comes together."

He added: "We need to share the information more freely and this is not just between the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) but other agencies as well.

"For example, through the prisons service, preschools and schools we are picking up social information about some families that will trigger follow-up efforts."

Having clear benchmarks across sectors will also mean a social worker can move more easily from say, the prisons to a hospital to a charity because his previous work history will be recognised.

Training, including courses under the new SkillsFuture initiative, will be developed according to the skills set out in the framework.

Ms Chee Liee Chin, a co-chairman of the steering committee that led the development of the framework, said pay scales are likely to be aligned to job positions as well, though they have yet to be linked.

The career plan is supported by MSF, MOH and the National Council of Social Service.

Ms Tammie Chng, 25, joined Singapore General Hospital as a medical social worker two years ago.

She said: "When I first came in, my concern was that social workers may not go very far and we will just remain at that level for the rest of our careers, but the framework spells out clearly what kind of roles we can go for."

Important for VWOs to organise themselves well: Tan Chuan-Jin
This is to ensure volunteers can help in a more meaningful way and meet real needs, says Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.
By Kimberly Spykerman, Channel NewsAsia, 21 Nov 2015

Voluntary welfare organisations need to organise themselves well, to ensure that volunteers can help in a more meaningful way and meet real needs, said Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

He said this on the sidelines of a visit to some rental flats in Chai Chee Road, which were being spruced up. Some of these residents faced a bed bug infestation, and volunteers helped to fumigate and clean the units.

"If you have a lot of volunteers who want to come in and help, but you're not organised well, it's going to be a poor experience and you could turn people off and you're not going to be very effective in your help," said Mr Tan.

The social sector can still be strengthened and we continue to do so. An area to work on is how to manage the volunteer...
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Saturday, November 21, 2015

He said one way this can be done is through longer-term corporate partnerships, which can lead to a win-win situation for both the beneficiaries, and the employees who are volunteering.

"The beauty of a long-term partnership is that the employees who are volunteering - we find that many people want to get more regularly involved. Because they get to know the people, and you're not just anonymously helping someone and then move on and have no idea what happens in their lives. You actually become interested in someone else's life, and I think that's when the real change happens," said Mr Tan.

Mr Tan also said with Singapore's ageing population, there is a need to ensure there are programmes in place to support the elderly, whether or not they fall into the low-income bracket.

"I'm actually quite concerned about those who are ageing in the private estates. Because isolation could sometimes even be more pronounced in those areas," he added.

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