Social Service Institute moving to Tiong Bahru

An artist's impressions of the new SSI (left and below). Factors that were considered, before the decision to move was made, included the accessibility of the new location, availability of space to carry out existing and planned functions, suitabilit
An artist's impressions of the new SSI (above). Factors that were considered, before the decision to move was made, included the accessibility of the new location, availability of space to carry out existing and planned functions, suitability of the venue and its other tenants, as well as the financial costs involved.PHOTO: NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICE
An artist's impressions of the new SSI (left and below). Factors that were considered, before the decision to move was made, included the accessibility of the new location, availability of space to carry out existing and planned functions, suitabilit
An artist's impressions of the new SSI (above). Factors that were considered, before the decision to move was made, included the accessibility of the new location, availability of space to carry out existing and planned functions, suitability of the venue and its other tenants, as well as the financial costs involved.PHOTO: NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICE

From Sept 14, training centre for welfare sector will be at Central Plaza

The main centre that trains people who work in charities and welfare organisations across Singapore, will be relocating again after its big move to TripleOne Somerset in the heart of town three years ago.

From Sept 14, the Social Service Institute (SSI) will occupy four floors at Central Plaza, the office building next to Tiong Bahru Plaza. The set-up cost is about $3 million.

The landlord of TripleOne Somerset has not renewed SSI's lease as the commercial building will be undergoing a renovation and rebranding exercise, said Mr Fermin Diez, deputy chief executive of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), which runs the institute.

Some in the sector have raised concerns about the move, citing the extra costs and disruption incurred in developing a new location.

They suggested that the SSI plan for the long term and eventually get its own permanent centre instead.

Youth officer Suresh Kumar, 44, who is pursuing a higher diploma in social service at the institute, said: "It might make more economic sense in the long term... to develop a proper one-stop centre for professionals in the industry to learn, meet, exchange ideas and tap on available resources."

Mr Diez, who is also group director of human capital development at NCSS, said the council considered many factors before relocating.

This included the accessibility of the new location, availability of space to carry out existing and planned functions, suitability of the venue and its other tenants, as well as the financial costs involved.

"The design and renovation project for the new SSI premises received competitive bids through the government tender process," he said. The institute's lease at Tiong Bahru is for three years with an option to renew for another three.

Mr Diez said: "Thus far, the decision is to continue with a leased space for SSI. Conditions being equal, there is no reason for us to look to move elsewhere after this."

He added that the move will bring SSI closer to eight other social service organisations housed in the same building, providing opportunities for future collaborations.

Besides training professionals, the 2,600 sq m institute will also take in volunteers and caregivers for its courses, said NCSS.

It added that users can look forward to having an auditorium and classrooms equipped with high-tech features. For instance, latest technologies, such as software that analyses learning patterns in order to recommend appropriate content to users, will be available.

People with disabilities will also be able to use the space as it is designed to meet their needs.

"Features such as wide corridors with no change in floor level, use of non-slip flooring, counter tops with varying heights... will be implemented. Accessible toilets and pantries are located at every level for persons with special needs," said Mr Diez.

The institute was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at TripleOne Somerset three years ago.

Some 40,000 training places have since been taken up by social service professionals at SSI. Its intake has grown from about 9,900 training spots in financial year 2013 to over 15,300 in the last financial year. Now, the centre intends to go beyond training professionals to include volunteers and caregivers.

Its current 2,700 sq m Somerset facility has a career centre where job consultancy and matching services are offered. The new space will also have a career centre. The SSI's predecessor - the Social Service Training Institute - was housed alongside NCSS for 10 years at the Ulu Pandan Community Building.

Some users are looking forward to the new space. Ms Eleanore Lim, 27, a residential care officer at Chen Su Lan Home, said she is hoping the Tiong Bahru venue will have more spacious classrooms.

She said the Somerset premises, where she goes for classes thrice a week, are rather "cramped". She added: "The number of students has really been growing and the existing facilities... are quite limited."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'Social Service Institute moving to Tiong Bahru'. Print Edition | Subscribe