What I’d Like to Say to Social Workers (Part 2)

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

Picking up from where we left off, here are the next 3 thoughts that I shared with Principal Social Workers at their annual Seminar in January this year 🙂

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4. Encountering Challenges with an Open Mind

Social workers and their work are all part of a larger picture, rather than exist on their own.

All of us have causes we are eager to champion – and we should champion them. Because if we don’t, then no one else will.

At the same time, there is a need to remember that social workers and the sector exist within a larger group of people, and that they work in a broader landscape. In this landscape, there are many other factors and people they have to consider when making decisions. So while focusing on the details is important, social workers have to be careful not to miss the woods for the trees.

Yes, constraints and challenges may arise as a result. Still, I hope our social workers will always approach the challenges they encounter with an open mind, and may they never let anything stop them from translating their goals into reality.


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5. Being Efficient and Productive

Many people think about the spirit and heart of giving when it comes to the social service sector.

Behind all these “heart work” though, systems and processes are still necessary to organise limited resources better and nurture passionate social workers on a sustained basis, especially considering the lack of manpower in the sector (volunteers, this is a call out to you!).

Some may think, won’t things get too mechanical? I’d say that’s unlikely, as long as the competency frameworks and toolkits remain a guideline and not an absolute rule. While it’s true that social service is a lot about serving from the heart, I believe some degree of systematisation is good – it keeps the sector efficient and productive, yet preserves the spirit behind the work.


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6. Tackling Problems Creatively

Again, with the lean manpower environment that the social service sector operates in, social workers need to be creative in organising themselves and in how they harness volunteers.

Once volunteers get onboard, how then can they be tapped to extend the reach of social workers so that they can help transform more lives?

The answer: By transforming the volunteers themselves.

So I hope our social service sector can create more opportunities for giving, and be ready as receptacles for the givers.

Likewise, volunteers. Allow yourselves to be engaged and transformed through your giving. With that, you can be the extra helping hands that the social service sector needs.


The social service sector, nevertheless, does have its own share of challenges and constraints. But there are steps that can be taken to get around them, steps that our resilient social workers can take to keep the sector going.

Enjoying the read? Stay tuned for our final post in the series!

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