Task force sets out to strengthen social service sector during Covid-19 and beyond

NCSS said the task force will also propose ways for the social services sector to "emerge stronger in the next normal". ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SINGAPORE - A task force is planning to help social service agencies digitalise and be more innovative in delivering their services during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

The Beyond Covid-19 Taskforce also intends to strengthen social service agencies in three other ways for a start: raise funds in more sustainable ways, improve how manpower and volunteers can be mobilised, and strengthen the capabilities of leaders in the agencies.

The National Council of Social Service (NCSS), which formed the task force in May, on Friday (July 3) outlined these areas that the task force will develop plans and guidelines in.

NCSS said the task force will also propose ways for the social services sector to "emerge stronger in the next normal" and provide feedback from the sector that can inform national policies.

The task force has 22 members, led by chairman Anita Fam, who is also NCSS president.

Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee said on Friday that social service agencies have stepped up during the pandemic to ensure that their services are still being delivered, adding that they also ramped up services to meet greater social needs.

"But the sector faces new challenges and will need to transform and coordinate better so that together, we can better serve the vulnerable," he said.

Ms Fam told The Straits Times that the task force is looking into ways to help social service agencies with the many challenges they face during and after the outbreak.

For instance, it was difficult for many agencies to provide services to their beneficiaries while their staff worked from home during the two-month circuit breaker that started in early April.

Ms Fam said one way these agencies can be helped is for them to digitalise. Since the circuit breaker, some agencies have already been holding virtual counselling sessions with the people they are helping, instead of doing so in person.

Another struggle social service agencies face is being unable to organise fund-raising events due to social distancing measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"Everyone has to tighten their belts, so some of the traditional sources of funding are no longer there," said Ms Fam.

In these trying times, social service agencies could explore virtual fund-raisers, she said.

Such initiatives already exist, such as the Singapore Exchange's SGX Bull Charge. The run, which goes virtual this year, is organised by the bourse in partnership with NCSS to raise funds for agencies such as the Autism Association (Singapore).

"We must have the mindset that the world will never go back to the way it was, pre-Covid-19. Our greatest challenge lies in meeting the needs of our users, even if we can't be physically there for them," Ms Fam said.

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