Pioneer social workers honoured

SINGAPORE - Ten social work pioneers who laid the groundwork for improving lives in Singapore were honoured yesterday.

At Tuesday's annual Social Workers' Day (SWD) organised by the Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW) and attended by more than 500 social service practitioners at Gardens by the Bay, 10 social workers who had played important roles in the last 30 years were presented with tokens of appreciation by Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

Mr Tan said, "They have set the foundation for social work in Singapore. They have made a difference to the lives of the people they reach out to, and been a source of guidance and inspiration for all the very young social workers today as well."

One of the pioneers was Professor Tan Ngoh Tiong, former dean of the School of Human Development and Social Services at SIM University, who decided on the career path of social work back in 1975. He said: "If you want to do good to as many people for as long as you can, you need to be a trained professional with a purpose, values as well as knowledge, and that's how I enrolled in social work."

Acknowledging today's changing social landscape, pioneer Dr Rosaleen Ow, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore, said: "Society is increasingly having subgroups popping up, people that we didn't notice before. We can no longer put our heads in the sand and say that we don't want to work with people who are different."

Indeed, the theme for this year's SWD was "honouring diversity". SASW president Ms Agnes Chia said social workers should recognise and avoid being judgmental towards the wide variety of groups that may be marginalised, such as disabled people, single parents, prisoners or LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals.

She said, "It is important to provide the fraternity of social workers with a platform to come together and discuss the core principles of social work, so as to continually guide our practice."

Social workers could also push for changes in social structures and policies to ensure that everyone has a share in the social and economic benefits as Singapore develops as a nation, said SASW.