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 🙂

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!

What does it take to be an ‘Operationally Ready’ Dad?

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

For many of us who have served our time in National Service, we all know that to be operationally ready, we need to put in time and to train hard. There are no shortcuts to an effective defence. In many ways, to be a good dad, we need to also spend time, we need to put in effort to practice fathering and to always be ready.

Training to be operationally ready in NS…no dad bod here.

Time spent with children is never quite enough. But we need to work hard at it and focus on not just the big things, like providing for the family, but also on the small things, like just being there with your children. I am a firm believer in not just quality time but also quantity time. Whatever we can manage, we should try.

Side-note: Also important to help your wife out too.
#IronTherapy #IronMan?

I am sure many of us have our own ways of trying to be a good dad. After a long day of work, I make it a point to pop into their rooms to chat before they sleep. Sometimes I am just there to listen to their daily concerns. Sometimes it is an opportunity to reflect on lessons learnt from things we experience. We try and play board games where we can. Sometimes we go out for a jog or swim or cycling. These days, we also spend time sharing our favourite Jimmy Fallon or Saturday Night Live (SNL) episodes as we trawl through Youtube.

Time flies. Years ago he was just a little boy.  

Every moment that we miss never comes back; especially as they are growing up, ever so quickly. Just being there, as much as possible, helps me stay in touch with them as they mature.

These may be just moments in time, but they become memories for life. 🙂

Support for Active Fatherhood

During my Ministry’s recent Committee of Supply debate, I spoke on how our families make life meaningful for us.  Families really are the foundations for our society.

Active fathering is a vital part of strong families.

There is now more support for active fatherhood.  We introduced paternity and shared parental leave to give fathers more time with their children right from birth. Fathers are also eligible for childcare leave.

More fathers today want flexible work arrangements. The Work-Life Grant incentivises employers to provide flexible work arrangements.

Our Dads for Life movement actively engages and reaches out to the fathers in the community, schools and workplaces.

But ultimately, active fatherhood is a personal choice and commitment.

Being An Active Father…Even After Divorce

It’s true – after a divorce, it can challenging for dads to remain actively involved in the lives of their children.

This is especially so when dads do not live with their children, and perhaps see them only on weekends.

So how can divorced fathers play their part?

To help parents learn to co-parent effectively, the Divorce Support Specialist Agencies (DSSAs) have programmes such as the Mandatory Parenting Programme and Parenting PACT for divorcing and divorced parties (as well as Children-in-Between, for the children).

From 1 April, the DSSAs have also started providing the Supervised Exchange and Supervised Visitation programme to facilitate child access arrangements. My Ministry will be sharing more details on this in the coming months.

On a more personal level, it is crucial that divorced dads make the best use of the time they have when they are with their children. Be present – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.

As author Catherine M Wallace aptly put it:

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big. Because to them, all of it has always been big stuff.”  

Divorced dads can show a presence in their children’s everyday lives by leveraging on technology. I know it is not quite the same, but it can be meaningful too.

Dropping a simple “Thinking of you” message to them in the middle of the day may seem trivial, but it tells them that you care, and are still there for them. Skype-ing them to have a chat when you aren’t able to meet is also one way of just connecting with them.

We often don’t realise how important our roles as fathers are. A recurrent pattern we pick up with youths at risks or even adults with various issues is that of an absent father. However imperfect we may all be, let’s all strive to be good dads and role models to our children, instilling good values that will anchor our families through challenges in life.

If we aren’t there to guide our children and be there for them as fathers, who will care enough to do so?

What I’d Like to Say to Social Workers (Part 1)

By Minister Tan Chuan-Jin

In January this year, I met with 160 Principal Social Workers from the healthcare and social service sectors at their annual Seminar.  We had a great chat about the complexity of social work issues and the ethical dilemmas our social workers had to deal with.

These are passionate, self-driven social workers and leaders in the profession, and I was very encouraged by their energy and enthusiasm to help those in need around us.

I would like to share the 10 thoughts I raised with these social workers at the session. I hope they will be useful to you – whether you are an aspiring social worker, volunteer, or just someone who wishes to understand what social workers go through.

Let’s start off with the first 3:

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1. Social Workers are Agents for Change

In fact, the whole social service sector is a vehicle for change.

The work that social workers do isn’t just about helping the less privileged, but everyone in Singapore as well. In the process of giving and caring for others, we also receive and we begin to reconnect with our sense of compassion and humanity.

There is a ripple effect. Through social work, and through getting people involved, society as a whole benefits when we build a selfless society.



2. Together, We Can Do Better

Many of you would agree that the healthcare and social service sectors are strongly intertwined, with many stakeholders, volunteer welfare groups and ad hoc volunteers involved.

Everyone has a different part to play, and that makes collaboration, partnership and bridging all the more important.

So, social workers need to build trust and connections within the sectors. After all, they are all working toward the same goal, even if some views differ at times.


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3. Learning Never Stops

Learning never stops – not for you, not for me, not for social workers.

Rather, it is an ongoing process. We need to evaluate and subject ourselves to introspection now and then, and for social workers, that process can start by reflecting on past events.

What went well? What did not? What can be done differently next time, and what were the lessons learnt?

So, to our social workers and to all of you, let us keep learning. Only then can we improve ourselves from strength to strength.


Summing it up, social workers are ordinary people like you and me, walking the same journey as everyone else. Yet, they have the extraordinary potential to change the world around them. Keen to hear more about my other points? Look out for my next post 😉

The Key to a Happy Marriage

By Parliamentary Secretary A/P Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim

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I recently met an elderly couple in their 60s.

Having been married for over 40 years, they shared with me the magic formula behind their long-lasting marriage – “Give and take”, “Forgive and forget” and “Share your problems and housework”.

Indeed, their words remind me of the ‘beauty of imperfection’ in a marriage. Marriage is between two people who are imperfect, and yet can be perfect together.

When we recognize the imperfection of being a human, it is then that we can learn to give and take and be accepting of each other’s shortcomings.

I have realized that marriage is not only about filling a gap. Recognising the imperfection of your spouse comes along with an appreciation for each other and loving for each other.

And, it is key to be kind to each other. Being kind to each other opens up many doors of love in a relationship.

It is important for us to see this imperfection in a positive light, and how it leads to many more good things in our marriage.

How can We Strengthen our Marriages?

Many couples I know say that they are too tied down by work or their children to think about strengthening their marriage.

But investing in your marriage can be as simple as spending time with your spouse as part of your regular routine.

I know of a friend who often remarked to me how loving his parents are. He said, “Even after 30 years of marriage, they would still make it a point to spend me-time together.

They would hold hands and go for a walk in the park after dinner every day. My dad would wait at the MRT station to walk my mum home after work. My mum would help out in the kitchen when it’s my dad’s turn to cook dinner for the family.”

Daily simple gestures like these show our love and care for our spouse, and go a long way in helping us keep our marriage strong.

Importance of marriage preparation programmes

My officers at the Registry of Marriages (ROM) shared this heartwarming love story with me.

There was this young couple in their early twenties who fell in and out of love several times due to vast differences in their personality, family and educational backgrounds.

Despite the odds, they made the decision to get married.

They were well aware that it was unhealthy and unsustainable to blindly compromise on issues to keep the relationship going.

They signed up for PREP (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Programme) and have since learnt how to better communicate with each other, better appreciate each other and to resolve conflict in a peaceable manner.

This love story tells us that conflict is inevitable in all marriages, even if we do not like to admit it.

It is not a question of avoiding it, but of how we work together to resolve it. Conflict doesn’t need to lead to negative outcomes.

A happy, lasting marriage does not happen by chance.

I would like to encourage more couples to take pro-active steps like this young couple mentioned earlier, to strengthen their marriages.

It is through working together to resolve conflict that we can learn to accept, adjust and grow as a couple.