New curriculum for social workers to learn financial planning skills

Topics covered in the new curriculum could include managing household finances and debts, as well as planning for retirement and children's education.
Topics covered in the new curriculum could include managing household finances and debts, as well as planning for retirement and children's education.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Social workers will soon be equipped with knowledge and skills to help low-income families better manage their finances.

A new Financial Capability and Asset Building curriculum is being developed by the Next Age Institute - a partnership between the National University of Singapore and Washington University in St Louis of the United States.

Topics covered could include managing household finances and debts, as well as planning for retirement and children's education.

The curriculum has been used in the US, but there is no formal training in this area in Singapore, and the institute is working to adapt the curriculum to the local context.

This comes amid recent studies which show that economic stress taxes the brain such that people are less able to make good decisions, think ahead or be self-disciplined.

Associate Professor Corinne Ghoh, co-director of the institute, said: "While more families are receiving financial help from the Government, poor decisions made on financial matters have, in some cases, rendered families homeless.

"Many low-income families may find it a challenge to navigate through the plethora of financial resources, loans and products."

Dr Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, agreed. "Social workers can play a pivotal role... integrating financial planning in their interventions with vulnerable families, and in the long term, helping them realise their aspirations," he said on Tuesday (Feb 21) at an event to introduce the curriculum.

A panel was formed last month to offer ideas on the curriculum. It includes people from the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the Singapore Association of Social Workers and Institute for Financial Literacy.

It will be piloted with social work undergraduates and about 100 social workers next year. Organisers aim to eventually include it as part of ongoing professional education for social workers here.

Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citigroup, has pledged US$130,000 (S$180,000) to the development of the course.