Social service sector gets S$20m boost to adopt technology, tackle manpower crunch

Social service sector gets S$20m boost to adopt technology, tackle manpower crunch

Charities and social service agencies will be able to adopt technological solutions at subsidised rates under an initiative introduced by the National Council of Social Services (NCSS) on Tuesday (Jul 16). Lee Li Ying with more. 

SINGAPORE: Charities and social service agencies will be able to adopt technological solutions at subsidised rates under an initiative introduced by the National Council of Social Services (NCSS) on Tuesday (Jul 16). 

These include an intelligent surveillance system called SoundEye, which can alert staff when people fall or injure themselves, and an autonomous cleaning robot designed to have human-like responses.

Under the Tech Booster initiative, social service agencies can get up to 98 per cent funding, capped at S$450,000 per centre, if they adopt three or more technology solutions.

Applications to NCSS are now open and will close at the end of September.

“The initiative enables existing care workers to provide better service to more clients, raise staff morale and retention and increase client centricity. Care workers’ roles can also be upgraded to attract more Singaporeans to take up these jobs,” said NCSS in a media release.

SoundEye, an intelligent surveillance system which can alert staff when people injure themselves
SoundEye, an intelligent surveillance system which can alert staff when people fall or injure themselves, was one of the items showcased at the NCSS Social Service Summit.

This was among two initiatives, which will cost around S$20 million, to help social service agencies address the manpower crunch. 

At the annual Social Service Summit on Tuesday, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee urged the industry to be open to digital transformation. 

"We must recognise the larger picture that the manpower situation will continue to tighten, across all sectors in Singapore," Mr Lee told a gathering of 1,000 social service professionals, corporates and donors.

"We will need to meet more needs, but we are not going to find it easier to hire people."

NCSS president Anita Fam, in her speech. pointed out that innovation is a key challenge for the social service sector.

She cited figures from a recent social service sector survey, indicating that 26 per cent of more than 280 industry leaders said innovation was one of their agency’s top three challenges.

Ms Fam added that innovation is “critical” for those operating in the non-profit space as agencies face “growing pressure to serve more people in need and to deliver measurable results with limited resources".

READ: Social services sector aims to strengthen service delivery with two new digital initiatives

READ: Personal shame, stigma and doing good: Incoming president of the National Council of Social Service Anita Fam goes On the Record

The Tech Booster initiative hopes to introduce technology at residential facilities that find it hard to hire staff, such as adult disability homes, day care centres and welfare homes. One of the key aims of the programme is to reduce operational time spent by a care worker by 30 per cent.

Social service agencies can also tap the Project Back-To-Basics initiative to streamline processes for social service professionals, so that more of their time can be freed up to serve clients instead of handling work like administrative tasks.

These professionals include speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers and youth workers. 

“The professionals can have higher job satisfaction and perform upgraded functions that better use their professional skills and knowledge,” said NCSS.

A consultancy company will work with the organisations to identify areas where processes can be improved, and suggest ways to do this through technology or job redesign.

Social service agencies will get subsidies of up to 95 per cent, capped at S$100,000 for each centre. There are currently eight agencies involved in 11 projects, and the initiative will run until March 2023.

In addition, an inaugural youth leadership initiative called NCSS 40-under 40 will take place later this year in October.

The three-day two-night residential programme will give 40 participants under the age of 40, as of Dec 31, the opportunity to network with people in the sector, as well as to engage with government leaders.

Source: CNA/jt/ec(gs)

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