Feelings of burnout can be unsettling or even terrifying, and around the world social work burnout has been very well-documented. Over time, we hope to better understand the causes of burnout, including the structural causes, but for now, as a start, it feels important to normalise such discourse in Singapore. Therefore, in this episode, we speak to two young Singaporean social workers, “Jing” and John Lim (savethesocialworker.com) about their experiences of burnout and self-care.
With so many aid and assistance schemes scattered across organisations, ministries, and institutions, how should social workers and volunteers identify the most relevant ones for the individuals and communities with whom they work? In response, Tan Weilie created SchemesSG (http://schemes-sg.online/), a searchable, indexable directory of schemes in Singapore. We hear more about how he got started with a minimum viable product and his own list, before we appeal to you, our listeners, to contribute to his crowdsourcing request.
Stories about low-income or low-wage Singaporeans who struggle to make ends meet or receive inadequate financial assistance follow familiar patterns. First, they are documented and shared without consent. The ensuing social media conversations are a mix of outrage, scepticism, and resignation. There are concurrent attempts to identify, to verify, and to follow up with the individual. The speedier the story goes viral, the government (frequently fronted by MSF) hurries to investigate and to clarify, concluding with the assurance that assistance has been or will be extended.
The collaboration (and conflicts) between social workers and school counsellors – in the school context, working with and for “at-risk” students – is (are) the focus of Lim and Wong’s (2018) study, which has the potential to offer practical recommendations for such professionals across Singapore. While some of the dynamics are well-documented, three limitations should be highlighted: First, the focus on inter-professional collaboration at the individual level ignores more structural mandates dictating the roles of the counsellors and social workers (and is thus a missed opportunity to interrogate how the professionals perceive their responsibilities); second, there was only one counsellor-social worker dyad in the sample of nine, which means professional interactions were not adequately captured; and third, persistent reliance on the label “at-risk”, in my opinion, continues to be problematic.
“This is What Inequality Looks Like” (2018) by Teo You Yenn galvanised a national conversation on inequality and poverty, yet almost two years later – of no fault of the author – the extent to which the rhetoric has translated into sustainable action is less clear. While the government has introduced policy changes, community groups have started initiatives, and academics have taken greater research interest in these issues, the underlying assumption that Singapore should “lift the bottom, not cap the top” has gone unquestioned.