Govt looking at implementing national database for social service sector
- POSTED: 19 Sep 2013 11:38
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The Singapore government is looking at implementing a national database for the social service sector, akin to the national medical health record already in place in the healthcare sector.
SINGAPORE: The Singapore government is looking at implementing a national database for the social service sector which will be similar to the national medical health record already in place in the healthcare sector.
Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing said this will enhance service delivery to those in need and help practitioners improve their capabilities.
Mr Chan was speaking on Thursday at a symposium for social service professionals.
Singapore currently has a National Electronic Health Record which doctors use to access patients' full medical history from a single database.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is now looking at a similar Integrated IT system that will allow social service agencies across Singapore to have access to clients' records.
Mr Chan said the aim is to facilitate seamless service delivery to those in need, even if they move from one part of Singapore to another. For example, someone moving from Bedok in the eastern part of the island to Jurong in the west can seamlessly access services, without going through any red tape.
He said it is not just about reducing workload or achieving a more client-centric experience; it is also about levering the data to plan social services based on emerging trends.
At the symposium, the minister touched on emerging trends which may present future social challenges for the country. For example, the increasing number of Singaporeans marrying foreigners comes with the risk of a growing number of failed marriages, with children caught in between.
Mr Chan said: "Statistically, the dissolution rate of Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans marriage is a bit higher. We also know that in seven years' time, there is the typical seven-year-itch problem. Typically after a while, families that get into trouble, they get into trouble. These are things we can forecast upfront. These are things we have to build up capacity and capability to manage some of the challenges.
"Having the marriage dissolve is sad enough, having a marriage dissolve with children from a cross-cultural background is another challenge so these are the kinds of things we can use data to better prepare ourselves for the challenges of tomorrow."
Currently, data is already being used to decide on where to site social service offices, depending on where the case loads are.
Mr Chan added it can also help agencies look at travel patterns and people movement to help the social service sector plan future capabilities.
The ministry said an integrated system could cut the time taken for frontline officers doing administrative work by 40 per cent.
Voluntary welfare organisations Channel NewsAsia spoke with welcomed the move, saying it will help cut down on the time taken for delivering help to those in need.
Vincent Ng, executive director of Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre, said: "One of the biggest problems is duplication. Those seeking help have to bring along a lot of documentation because each time when they approach different touch point, they have to offload all the information they have given to Agency A followed by Agency B.
"When you have a central information system, all of that can be captured and at the frontline, we will try to understand more about their predicament and also make a better assessment about what they need, their problems and coming up with an intervention plan."
Jayne Chiara Leong, manager of welfare services at Singapore Cancer Society, said: "The process of the time taken for approval sometimes needs to take actually four to six weeks for a family in need. For a family in need of social assistance, as well as medical supplies, that can be a very long wait."
Social service practitioners said it will take years to collate the data needed.
They added the ministry could look at rolling out specific sets of data in phases, with a focus first on the most vulnerable groups.
The inaugural symposium organised by UniSIM and the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre was attended by some 300 social service practitioners. It is meant to be a sharing session for best practices and to enhance social service delivery for Singapore.