SINGAPORE - Voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) are working with the Government to form a central body to oversee the recruitment, tracking and deployment of social service professionals.
The aim is to groom future leaders, make the sector more attractive, and address the perennial bugbear of staff exiting due to the lack of a structured career pathway.
Some 200 to 300 individuals will be part of this pool, which will be overseen by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), a statutory board under the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
Its minister, Mr Chan Chun Sing, said the effort is also in response to workers' feedback that they be deployed in different organisations to "better understand the bigger picture".
Currently, some can spend decades working in the same agency or concentrating on a single area of social work.
Mr Chan told Parliament during the debate on the MSF budget that the new career scheme would complement existing ones, and would lead to more sharing of ideas across VWOs.
"Most importantly, we hope that in 10, 15 years... we will groom a new generation of social service leaders," he added.
These will ideally be individuals who are "not just deep in their respective professional knowledge, but also in breadth of expertise and exposure, and can lead the entire sector".
The scheme will involve new social service scholarship holders, mid-career entrants and existing professionals who are graduates.
The NCSS will set up a taskforce comprising representatives from VWOs, government agencies, companies and academia to work out the details of the scheme, which will be rolled out by year-end.
On Thursday, Mr Chan also announced plans to strengthen manpower support in the sector.
Currently, NCSS looks into the training of social workers only. In future, development opportunities will be opened up to all social service professionals. These may include therapists and early intervention teachers. This will translate to more uniformity in terms of short-term schemes involving sabbatical leave, or longer-term ones to do with career pathways and training.
The ministry has also adjusted its funding to VWOs, and shared salary benchmarks in the sector, to enable them to pay their employees better, Mr Chan said.
Covenant Family Service Centre senior social worker Ruth Ng welcomed the prospect of being deployed to various agencies.
However, she shared the concerns of Professor Tan Ngoh Tiong, dean of SIM University's School of Human Development and Social Services, about the practicality of moving staff across different fields of work.
He pointed to the different set of aptitudes and skills required for, say, working with the elderly and children with special needs.
The MSF budget was the last of 16 ministries' to be scrutinised, and capped nine days of discussion in the House that was dominated by concerns over health-care affordability, public transport and manpower issues.
Parliament approved $64.37 billion of spending for FY2014, along with $24.78 billion in development estimates.
Leader of the House and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen delivered a report card of the Government's work at the mid-point of the electoral cycle in his closing speech. He said there had been headway in dealing with housing and elderly issues, but areas such as transport and health care remained a work in progress.
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