What I’d Like to Say to Social Workers (Part 3)

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

Our social service sector has served and helped many people over the years. But there is always room for improvement, which begs the question – how can we improve ourselves and become even better than before?

In the final post of this series, I will share the last four thoughts that I shared with Principal Social Workers at their annual Seminar in January this year.

Missed the earlier posts? Read them here and here.

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7. Having your Heart and Mind in the Right Place

Social workers serve with a big heart, but having big hearts does not equate to having “bleeding hearts”. Rather, it’s about having a heart big yet strong enough to encompass all the challenges that come in in the long haul.

Which brings us to sustainability, the key in all that the social service sector does. And that could start with the sector taking a step back to see all that it has been doing, and being clear in what it’s good at. Because that’s what our social service sector needs – big hearts, clear minds and strong values – to power on.


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8. Having a Collective Belief

Like everyone else, social workers have their own beliefs and understanding of certain issues, and tension sometimes arise as a result.

Social worker or not, we feel the tension because our fundamental positions are different. So it is important for us to first establish what exactly our beliefs are.

The different beliefs and principles that we have guide our approach in the things we do, which may in turn differ from that of others’. Thus, to move as one, the social service sector has to come together and establish a shared narrative of the issues it deals with to better understand its collective beliefs.



9. Preventing Vulnerables from Falling

Our social workers do their part to reach out to those in need. But as a whole, the sector should strive to help them at an even earlier stage, so that those in need can recover and get back on their feet sooner.

To do so, coordination among stakeholders on the ground can be improved. By stringing them together, the sector can take pre-emptive steps and work together to bring about earlier interventions.

So deal with things upstream and structure programmes and interventions in a more definitive way. With that, more issues can be addressed earlier, and a lot of resources and effort can be saved.


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10. Strong Leadership Inspires

Social work is meaningful, purposeful and grounded in the daily lives of people we help. But just because we are doing good on the ground, doesn’t mean we can’t or should not lead. Social work still needs strong leadership, and that can come from within the sector.

So what does leadership mean to the social service sector?

Ultimately, in any field, strong leadership inspires. It provides the direction and mobilises people. It creates the environment that keeps people going. It keeps the work sustainable.

As leaders, the more good you do, the more effective your outreach will be. And with that, I believe the healthcare and social service sectors will be able to climb to greater heights.


Some of you may find these points useful or applicable to your area of work, within or beyond the healthcare and social service sectors. I encourage you to apply them where you are, be it at work or in school, and see how it works out. And if these 10 thoughts have stirred in you some interest in either of the sectors, how about joining as a social worker or a volunteer? You will be warmly welcomed 🙂

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