Tackling social service sector's manpower needs

Clients taking part in activities at the newly opened Eden Centre for Adults at Clementi Ave 2.
Clients taking part in activities at the newly opened Eden Centre for Adults at Clementi Ave 2.PHOTO: ST FILE

I laud the move by the Government and Singapore Association of Social Workers in recognising the important role played by social workers in supporting vulnerable Singaporeans, and the call for more social workers to join the disability sector ("More social workers, more help for needy"; Jan 25 and "Urge more social workers to join disability sector" by Ms Joyce Wong of the SPD; Wednesday).

While social workers are primarily known to be the first point of contact in reaching out to people in need, the needs or the gaps identified in the community are often complex and multi-faceted, ranging from social, health, mental health and special needs to eldercare.

To ensure seamless delivery of holistic care in the community, a team of professionals from diverse disciplines needs to come together to develop a coordinated care plan for people in need. At times, a multi-agency approach involving government agencies and non-profit organisations (NPOs) is required as well.

Currently, manpower needs in social service cover different professionals, such as educators in early childhood and special needs; allied health professionals (such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists), psychologists, counsellors and those in administrative roles such as programme managing, human resources, finance and general administration.

There are many efforts by various bodies to encourage fresh graduates and mid-career professionals to join the sector.

Some of these initiatives have borne fruit, but the spotlight on social workers would give an unbalanced impression that the needs of the community are handled mainly by social workers.

In addition to encouraging more professionals to join the social service sector, there is also a great need to rally more volunteers to give their time and talent to help the social service sector.

As manpower and resources are often scarce in the social service sector, volunteers are the lifeblood of most NPOs and more can be done to boost skills-based volunteering, leveraging the expertise of skills-based volunteers in serving the community.

NPOs would need to develop more robust programmes to train and equip volunteers, and engage them in meaningful roles in serving the community.

This will help to address some of the manpower shortages facing the sector and, most importantly, bring the whole community together to contribute to the less fortunate in our society.

Tim Oei

Chief Executive


  • Forum Note: AWWA is a non-profit organisation that helps seniors, low-income families, caregivers and people with disabilities
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2016, with the headline 'Tackling social service sector's manpower needs'. Subscribe