Boosting crisis management skills, digitalisation key to stronger social service sector: Task force

SINGAPORE – The Covid-19 pandemic has helped to crystallise a way forward for a stronger social service sector, with crisis management capabilities and digital services identified as areas for attention.

A task force set up by the National Council for Social Service (NCSS) made these recommendations and more based on data gleaned from more than 1,800 phone interviews conducted by NCSS from the circuit breaker period to phase two of Singapore’s reopening to understand how the pandemic affected the quality of life of Singaporeans.

For instance, in the survey, more than a quarter of respondents said they believed they were eligible for Covid-19-related support schemes, and needed the help, but did not apply as they did not know how to do so or faced an information overload due to the many schemes available.

The Beyond Covid-19 Taskforce, in response to the findings, has recommended that social service agencies innovate their service delivery to be more person-centred, an approach that can improve clients’ overall quality of life.

Mr Kelvin Koh, chief executive of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds), noted the person-centred approach is the right step forward for organisations like Minds.

He said: “The approach is one where we look at a person and understand the different factors that could be contributing, affecting or undermining their quality of life.”

He added that Covid-19 had revealed the need for the agencies to work together to support beneficiaries struggling with issues such as financial troubles, family violence and loss of a loved one – at the same time in some cases.

The task force, formed in May last year, released its recommendations in a guide for social service agencies (SSAs) on Thursday (May 6).

The recommendations address four broad areas: advancing digital capabilities within the sector; advocating “person-centred” – multi-faceted and holistic – services; improving how manpower and volunteers can be mobilised; and strengthening the capabilities of leaders in the agencies.

To share knowledge with social service agencies on how they can apply the person-centred approach in service delivery, NCSS will also launch an Empowerment Guide this month.

The Social Service Institute, the training arm of NCSS, will be developing a crisis management playbook for the sector, to be ready by the end of this year.

The institute will also partner various institutes of higher learning to roll out training programmes in the areas of crisis management, change management and strategic and operational agility next year.

The task force also highlighted the need to enhance skills and capabilities within the sector to build an agile workforce and mobilise volunteers to support the community in the future.

NCSS will roll out a new initiative in June this year to co-fund professional services such as counselling to support the well-being of social service professionals.

To enhance agencies’ volunteer management capabilities, NCSS will also launch the learning and development road map for volunteer management practitioners in July this year.

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Chaired by NCSS president Anita Fam, the task force has 22 members, including representatives from the corporate, public and social sectors.

Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli said on Thursday that the members of the task force had brought diverse and valuable perspectives, which helped to support the sector in responding and adapting to Covid-19 in the past year.

“Together, we will transform capabilities as a sector with SSAs that are driven by committed social service professionals, augmented by volunteers and enabled by technology so that we can better serve the needs of Singaporeans,” he said.

Dr Foo Fung Fong, executive director of Filos Community Services, said the pandemic has shown the importance of developing resilient organisations and leaders.

She said: “The tone from the top is important. Especially in a crisis situation, when things are uncertain and advisories may fluctuate with the changing pandemic situation, it is important to have leaders who are agile and resilient, with wise and good decision-making competencies, to steer their organisations through very challenging times. I think training and leadership development is important for both senior as well as middle management.”

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