Director for SPD’s Inclusion Advancement division, Joyce Wong, who started out as a social worker, shares in this letter published in The Straits Times Forum on 3 February the many hats that social workers in the disability sector wear while rehabilitating people with disabilities back into mainstream society.
We applaud the Government and the Singapore Association of Social Workers for encouraging more to join the social work profession (“More social workers, more help for needy“; The Straits Times Forum, 25 Jan 2016).
The public is probably more familiar with the role of medical social workers in hospitals and community social workers in family service centres.
However, over the years, the profession has branched out into sub-sectors and specialist tracks, such as the disability sector.
To people with disabilities who need help, social workers act as counsellors to help them cope with the trauma and grief of acquiring or living with a disability, and as advisers on ways to help them adjust to their new lives.
Social workers also play the role of facilitators to link them and their families with other social support networks, and work together with other professionals, such as therapists, assistive technology specialists and doctors, to address the different needs arising from their disabilities.
When I started out as a social worker some 20 years ago, my early years working with people with disabilities and their caregivers gave me insights into what is needed to make Singapore an inclusive society.
Understanding their needs is important so that we can advocate and plan new programmes to meet these needs.
In fact, the impact that a social worker creates extends beyond individuals and their families.
Having direct contact with people in need puts social workers in the right position to influence policymaking and advocate social change.
They draw the nation’s attention to the needs and challenges of those under their care, who may sometimes face discrimination.
They work with various stakeholders including government agencies, corporate partners, schools and employers to help those marginalised to be included in mainstream society.
The social work profession in the disability sector can be a challenging but very rewarding one.
However, encouraging social workers to join the social service, and, in particular, the disability sector, remains a constant challenge.
Although social work is a trained profession, most members of the public still see social work as voluntary unpaid work and noble deeds, when it should be recognised as a profession that can make a positive social impact.
Social work is a profession that can empower and change lives.
With the implementation of the National Social Work Competency Framework, we hope that more social workers would be encouraged to join the disability sector.
Director, Inclusion Advancement