Number and Ratio of Social Worker-Client in Family Service Centres and coping with COVID-19 crisis

Parliamentary Question, 4 May 2020

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) in each of the last three years, what is the number of social workers in each Family Service Centre (FSC); (b) whether this number deviates significantly from the capacity required at FSCs; © what is the number of clients served by each FSC; (d) what is the social worker to client ratio at each FSC; (e) what is the fluctuation in the number of clients across each quarter; and (f) whether there are policy measures to allow FSCs to cope with sudden increase in caseload, such as in times of crisis like COVID-19 or when a community suffers significant disruption due to relocation.

Mr Desmond Lee: Family Service Centres (FSCs) are community-based social services that support low-income and vulnerable individuals and families to achieve independence, stability and resilience, through social work intervention.

The number of social workers in the FSCs has increased over the past few years, from 588 in 2017, 680 in 2018 and to 706 in 2019. This translates to an average of about 15 social workers per FSC in 2019, with the variance depending on the size and needs of the town it serves.

FSC caseloads vary across centres and are generally stable from quarter to quarter. The FSCs see an annual average of 350 clients each, with social work practitioners managing an average caseload of 23 in 2017, 25 in 2018 and 22 in 2019. Each FSC distributes the cases among its staff according to the needs of their centre.

MSF and NCSS work closely with our FSCs and Social Service Agencies (SSAs), both in normalcy and during challenging periods like COVID-19. During this period, MSF has been in regular contact with FSCs to understand their concerns, and issues advisories to FSCs on the precautionary measures to be taken to cope with the evolving situation. MSF also provides funding to FSCs based on their caseloads, with more funding provided for complex and high-risk cases. This ensures that FSCs have the resources and flexibility to hire more staff when needed.

In addition to the support measures announced in the Resilience Budget, FSCs being NCSS member agencies are eligible to claim $3,000 from the Community Chest to help them cope with COVID-19-related expenses. NCSS will also support SSAs in adopting digital tools through the existing VWOs-Charities Capability Fund, and these tools can enable FSCs to continue serving clients remotely during this period. SSAs can also tap on the SG United portal to recruit volunteers to augment their manpower, to support them during this period.

We will continue to work closely with the FSCs to support them and their clients during this challenging season.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and climate change in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

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A full-time human, and part-time everything else.