SINGAPORE - The number of social workers at family service centres has increased in the last three years, even as the amount of cases they take on stayed roughly the same.
There were 588 such workers in 2017, 680 in 2018, and 706 last year - a 20 per cent increase from 2017 to 2019. Family service centres help low-income and vulnerable people.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said on Monday (May 4) that this amounts to about 15 social workers last year per centre, though numbers vary depending on the size and needs of the area the centres serve.
He was answering a written parliamentary question from Nominated MP Anthea Ong, who asked if family service centres can sufficiently meet needs, especially when cases spike during crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Lee said the load of cases varies across centres but is generally stable from quarter to quarter, with an average of around 350 clients at each centre annually.
Each social worker handled 23 cases on average in 2017, 25 in 2018, and 22 last year, and cases are distributed according to each centre's needs.
Mr Lee added that his ministry has been in regular contact with the centres during the current crisis to understand concerns, and issues advisories on precautionary measures.
It also gives more funding to centres that have to deal with "complex and high-risk cases", so they can hire more staff when needed.
Apart from Budget measures, family service centres - as National Council of Social Service member agencies - can claim $3,000 from the Community Chest to cope with expenses related to Covid-19.
The council also supports agencies in adopting digital tools through an existing fund, which can help centres to serve clients remotely during this period.
The SG United jobs portal can also be used to hire volunteers.