Social Service in Singapore – Past, Present, Future



in the early 1950s social service in Singapore was founded on the passion of individuals concerned about the plight of those who could not meet their basic needs these caring individuals raised funds volunteered and called for government aid this NGO Thanh Roy young spirit was what truly supported people in the community who were in need but soon it became clear more must be done there was a need to provide proper coordination and support in 1958 the Singapore Council of social service was set up to provide structured social services it acted as the umbrella body and voice for voluntary welfare organisations also known as social service agencies today its mission was to bring all organizations and individuals interested in community services and welfare together when fire broke out in Kampung Baru in 1959 and bukit hosts we in 1961 the council together with voluntary welfare organisations the government and community came together to deliver disaster relief conselho social service started almost in 1958 with about 20 charities and they were charities covering children elderly homes dealing with women and over the years it has grown from 28 to 450 today and many people volunteered those early days to start up our nine stations dealing with elderly dealing with youth dealing with children dealing with child neglect dealing with poverty those were the major issues and problems of the day reflecting off poor economy struggling economy where people have to work very hard to be able to manage their life as family and social issues emerged within the community it was evident that more support was needed for persons with special needs policies with disability were reviewed to strengthen the support for persons with special needs special education for children with learning disabilities also known as sped were started in 1971 in collaboration with the ministry of education when compulsory education was induced to Singapore the only problem was that children with disabilities were not included so Ava took the initiative to organize a committee that included all the VW's everybody was very enthusiastic and finally it did come we did get compulsory education VW's have put in a lot of effort and shown that children with disabilities are part of our community we are not outsiders they belong to Singapore we are the children of Singaporeans they need the same help yes a little bit different but it would be so boring if everybody was the same so these children have made a difference in the life of other school gifts as well as social service agencies grew so did the need for funds to operate the services in 1983 Community Chest was set up to fundraise for member agencies survey can focus on delivering quality services at a time we found that some of the charities are not very good at raising money but they are very good in providing services so to make them concentrate and do what they're best in which is providing services at the beginning we are just a fundraising organization but I think we have evolved quite a bit since then one very important one is we have become a one-stop csr center for corporations come chairs have moved into trying to see what other services that needed and how can we help so we also trying to help them to teach them how to raise money to explore it them new ways such as digital way of raising money using the social media to raise money in 1984 Community Chest created the well-loved charity mascot charity it grew to be popular with the children now we have introduced in all the schools and I think it's very importantly in calculate the value of sharing caring to our youngsters who will be the future citizens and the plaza will contribute we are now also moving into this place goes to even at that young age teach them how to share your sharing color pencils sharing things sharing sweets simple things like that will help to go up character helped to be up amputee to help those who are less fortunate under community in 1988 a number of advisory councils were set up to review social needs identified gaps and services and recommend action plans these were in the areas of aging disability and children in youth as a result government programs were administered and acts were enacted to support the needs of the community in 1999 the outstanding social worker award was introduced to recognize social workers in Singapore for the key role they play in society over the years social needs have become more complex to meet these demands the nature of work for social workers has evolved things have become more complex it has also become more intense I think we see a lot of families coming to have experience in crisis issues that we may not have seen that frequently workers and workers need to be quick with that you need to be quick on their feet and their thinking and be able to mobilize different partners and very short span of time compared to the past so I think we really need to expand these skill sets in order to cope with the emerging man's distance therefore there's a need for us to involve the community more in this entire helping ecosystem to address the evolving social needs social service professionals will need to upgrade their skills the Social Service Training Institute now known as social service Institute was set up in 2003 to ensure that would be relevant training for professionals in the sector this included leadership and organizational development programs at that time in 2003 one of the things that we introduced was a code of governance we wanted people to lever up and adopt good governance practices but don't forget most charity status off someone with a great passion and great vision and administrative things that the processes and all that time to get neglected they're just there to serve to help someone who needs systems so SST I was a good aggregator looking all the NGOs and see what are their needs and then find the common grounds and organize causes so that people with similar needs can be confined and he's addressed so that's how he got started because we saw that passion itself is not good enough for an NGO to develop capabilities to develop effectiveness and more importantly to achieve sustainability the first five-year enabling master plan for the disability sector was proposed in 2007 the vision was for Singapore to be an inclusive society where persons with disabilities were viewed as equal and contributing members of society in 2013 Singapore ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities this significant milestone was made possible through the strong people public and private collaboration under the enabling master plan in 2016 a national initiative to support volunteerism SG cares took flight it looks into the needs on the ground shape volunteering opportunities and match volunteers to the causes go through the su casa movement we bring together all the social service agencies all the health care providers all the community organizations in one community together and by bringing them together it creates an opportunity for the givers to network with each other they realize are serving the same community but in different ways addressing different aspects of food and through the SDKs community networks that we are establishing in each and every town across Singapore it creates the momentum for us to transform our social safety nets by working together in more cohesive and integrated way relationships are critical in their respect because if the people at the front lines serving our social service agencies serving our Civic religious organization working in our grassroots and community organizations they know each other trusted each other and ever working relationship with each other then it enables us to give effect to structures data sharing colocation video conferencing for them to work more effectively together to give an uplift to families in need in 2017 the social service sector strategic frosts for St a five-year roadmap was developed so that the sector remains relevant and responsive to future challenges and changing needs of the population long gone are the days where you just did one service which precluded you from doing other programs and services now we actually have to sing far more holistically and look at the complex needs that a person has so they'll be multifaceted instead of just one particular service it might be several supporting a person or within that services just many many different elements that they need to consider in order to have access for that person also they have to put themselves into the shoes of the person receiving the services and see how much easier it can be for that person to navigate through all that complexity in line with empowering individuals their families and communities we saw the formation of the empowering for Life Fund under the President's Challenge in 2018 it supports vulnerable groups through skills upgrading capacity building and employment is really to ensure that we empower this only College they're following for life on you and empower people not just a question of providing belief assistance but empowering them by making sure that we can over time become independent develop self-reliance you know and then what better way to do that rather than you know to make sure that they're able to have the skills capabilities to find a Bronwyn to get support in this fast evolving economy and fast evolving employment landscape today there is a greater demand for an integrated and person-centered approach to social service better coordination among sector players will provide more effective and seamless help social service agencies need to leverage on the advancements in technology to support service users knology has certainly improved in the last 10 or so years in for everyone there wasn't such a thing as like a broken filter it certainly helped a lot in in terms of how I study in terms of how I access documents apart from that a lot of other technologies like assistive voiceover they have a lot are you in notice that Facebook has updated their their their system so that it actually recognizes text in pictures which not even my iPhone can do without Facebook if I click on the photo they tell me like oh this photo contains like a person outdoors sky yeah it's actually improved a lot is really helped a lot in the last ten or so here so what would the future be like for the social service sector what more can be done to support the service users in our community I wish for the social service sector is that we come together integrate more cohesively in the spirit of the s UK's movement embrace new technologies and innovations continue to strengthen and support and empower our Social Work professionals I hope they're more professionals more social workers will come in committed passionate and I hope that it will we will move towards a more caring inclusive selfish society where everyone has a place everyone feels that this is their home you

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