We support the idea of home-based care for the elderly, and recognise that in Singapore, most families prefer to engage domestic helpers rather than nurses ("New work pass proposed for maids taking care of elderly"; last Friday).
Given an ageing population, there will be a growing market for home caregivers. There will be higher demand for caregivers to come to Singapore, and the report is right to point out that there is a ready pool of domestic helpers who can be trained to fit the role.
To meet this trend, Singapore has to build up the capacity to train foreign domestic workers (FDWs) coming here with skills in caring for the aged. Doing so will ensure the quality and standard of training can be maintained to meet our needs.
Government agencies involved can facilitate and bring in the resources for this sector of the population. This can be achieved by accrediting a pool of employment agencies to source FDWs who are keen to be caregivers and take steps to get them properly trained and certified for caring for the aged.
Employers must then be prepared to pay more for these specialised domestic workers. Regardless, the cost would be driven by supply and demand in the long run; hence the tiered work pass will fit in quite nicely to recognise the skilled domestic helpers.
In order for such arrangements to be successful, we also need to have a pool of such workers to be called upon in the event the helpers take days off, or go on leave for home visits or for personal emergencies.
Such contingencies would need arrangements such as locums to cover their duties. In these instances, a pool of specialised foreign domestic caregivers could be provided by the accredited employment agencies.
Seah Seng Choon
Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training