A hand for low-income families

28 February 2017 | EducationCommunity
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Assoc Prof Faishal Ibrahim said that social workers can play a pivotal role in helping families think through key life decisions and the corresponding financial implications

The Next Age Institute (NAI) at NUS Arts and Social Sciences is developing a new Singapore Financial Capability and Asset Building (FCAB) curriculum to enhance social work education locally and better equip social work professionals to help low-income vulnerable individuals and families manage their finances.

Unveiled on 21 February, the new initiative will provide social workers with skills to help the less fortunate navigate their financial difficulties and gain access to appropriate services to improve their financial well-being and achieve better life outcomes. There is currently no formal training for social workers and students on financial capability and asset building in Singapore.

“Social workers can play a very important role in supporting and uplifting vulnerable individuals and families by integrating financial planning in their interventions with vulnerable families and in the long term, helping them realise their aspirations,” said Guest-of-Honour Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

The initiative is supported by MSF, Singapore Association of Social Workers, National Council of Social Service, and the Institute for Financial Literacy, as well as Citi Foundation, which is providing approximately $180,000 in funding support for the development of the FCAB curriculum.

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NAI Co-Director Assoc Prof Corinne Ghoh addressing the audience at the event

NAI has been in close collaboration with key stakeholders to gather feedback on the content requirements, which will be adapted from a curriculum developed in the US, and will also be conducting focus group discussions with social workers to assess training needs and identify gaps in practice.

Key topics that NAI hopes to introduce in the curriculum include understanding and managing household finances, debt negotiation, as well as building financial security for old age. Social workers can also be equipped to support families in planning for their children’s educational needs, acquiring more stable housing options and making retirement plans.

Plans are underway for a pilot to be introduced for about 100 social workers, as well as with NUS Social Work undergraduates as an elective module in 2018. Some 1,400 social work practitioners who are registered with the Social Work Accreditation Board in Singapore are expected to benefit from this curriculum.

Mr Mohamed Fareez, social worker and Centre Head of Cheng San Family Service Centre, believes such a curriculum would help to go beyond simply providing referrals to financial aid institutions. “As social workers on the ground, we sit down with families and plan for their future and that financial capability aspect would be very important for us to make some form of assessment of where they are at financially, and think about the options they can tap on.”

See press release and media coverage.