SINGAPORE: The social service sector is society's vehicle of change, triggering a chain of transformation, not only in the people who need help, but those who help them as well, said Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.
Speaking an event on Tuesday (Mar 15) to recognise pioneer social workers, Mr Tan highlighted efforts to support social workers, through initiatives such as the National Social Work Competency Framework.
But he said there are still gaps to be plugged, raising the example of how agencies are working in silos.
“I do think that silos are important, not in the way we have a negative connotation, but silos allow you to go very deep, and you become very competent and professional in what you do,” he said. “And you do need that specialisation, because if everybody is a generalist, you won't be able to develop the kind of competencies that you need.
“But silos if they just exist on their own, it's quite useless. We need to come together and deliver the outcome for the individuals. So one, I think, would be structure, the other one would be processes, and thirdly, a lot of it would be intangibles, which is actually just human engagement. It's not about Government and agencies and VWOs and the public, it is actually within themselves.”
He added that as these agencies interact, they build up trust and by developing a tacit understanding of issues, they will begin to collaborate better.
Associate Professor Ngiam Tee Liang was among 10 pioneer social workers honoured for their contributions at the 10th anniversary of the Social Workers' Day on Tuesday. He has been in the sector for more than four decades, and has seen how society's needs have changed over the years and how the Government has responded in tandem, he said.
"In the earlier days, in the 60s for instance, we were still grappling with more basic needs, and the Government was just emphasising on housing, education and health. That was the priority areas,” said the associate professorial fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Social Work.
“But over the years, as we progressed economically, and as social change affected life, community life changed, then we see more widening. Expectations have gone up and people are more educated these days, so a lot more effort is needed to engage residents. But the happy outcome of all this is, we see a lot more services. Now, the Government is putting in a lot more resources."
“Right now the foundation has been built, but if you look at it realistically, a lot more needs to be done to strengthen that,” added Assoc Prof Ngiam. “Mindsets changing of the agencies have to be done, and professionals have to learn to work as one.”