Social work: Be there for someone

A recurring theme that emerged from research undertaken in Singapore from 2008 to 2009 was the republic’s need for more social workers.

The Singapore Government has recognised this need over a longer period, and for much of the past decade, there have been many activities undertaken to both increase the number of social workers on the ground as well as to improve the standards and conditions in the profession.

Some initiatives include the registration of social workers to assure clients and service users of the highest standards of practice possible, as well as increasing the pay of social workers.

Career in social work

Those who are interested in a career in social work can apply to enrol in the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree programme offered by Monash University in Australia, in partnership with the Social Service Training Institute.

The Monash BSW programme has been offered in Singapore since late 2003 and is accredited by both the Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW) and the Australia Association of Social Workers (AASW).

With the accreditation from AASW, graduates are eligible to practise as social workers in Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Britain and in many other countries.

Indeed, there are plenty of jobs for social workers as well as longer-term career opportunities to move into more senior positions and/or to undertake further studies at the post-graduate level.

Social work is a profession that is committed to improving conditions for the more vulnerable members of society.

Social workers commonly engage directly with individuals, families and communities.

There are, however, also opportunities for social workers to act as advocates for change and, in doing so, to seek policies that are better able to meet their clients’ needs.

This means that social workers commonly have to adopt a delicate balance between the ways in which individuals are responsible for their problems and the ways in which various structures in any social context contribute to the problems that they face.

Social workers also need to be aware of the ways in which broader issues and concerns affect various groups in society.

For example, Singapore weathered the global financial crisis quite well, but for many individuals, it had implications that were beyond the control of any single government to prevent and address.

In a similar vein, there are social changes occurring in Singapore, such as changing family structures and the role of women in the workforce. The opening of the integrated resorts is likely to have an impact on some families and family structures in Singapore as well.

Social workers are at the “cutting edge” of social problems, often having to respond to emerging issues before the proper policy responses and structures are in place.

What it takes

Social work is not a profession for the faint-hearted, as it is challenging and demanding. But it is also an immensely rewarding profession with lifelong career options.

Those who have chosen this career path say that the rewards commonly come from the knowledge that, in some way, they have connected with a person, family or community and have made a difference.

Indeed, after a long career in direct practice, one of the joys of social work is hearing from former clients who have put their troubled past behind them and are doing well.

As one social worker puts it: “They just want to offer an update about how things worked out for them. Some want to say ‘thank you’, no matter how difficult the circumstances of my intervention might have been.” — Source: Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network

Article by the Social Service Training Institute, the National Council of Social Service Academy.