Social sector to better manage volunteers, as total spending rises to $700m in 2012

SINGAPORE - The social spending of charities here has grown by about 10 per cent every year since 2007 to more than $700 million annually, said Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, president of the National Council of Social Services on Tuesday.

The council is an umbrella body of more than 400 voluntary welfare organisations that help the less fortunate in Singapore. In 2012, the total operating expenditure of these organisations was $700 million.

"With so much resources being pumped into the sector, and more coming, it is not enough to use the same mental model," said Mr Hsieh as he addressed leaders of the sector at its annual members conference at Pan Pacific hotel.

One new model that the council intends to adopt is to have a nationwide system in which volunteers are recruited, trained and deployed centrally. Having a more organised system for volunteer management will address the sector's acute manpower crunch problem, said social sector professionals. It is also aimed at keeping volunteers meaningfully engaged so that ad-hoc volunteers stick around for the long haul. This can be done by matching their expertise better to the needs of the charities. The system should be up by 2015.

Minister of Family and Social Development Chan Chun Sing, who also spoke at the conference, urged the audience to embrace these changes as the role of social services become increasingly crucial in a society divided by rising inequality and immigration.

"There is a much wider definition of social services and it is not just about helping the poor," said Mr Chan. "Let social services be the fourth key pillar of Singapore success as much as defence, security and housing."

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