NUS Social Work awards S$280,000 to support five research projects led by social workers

Projects to examine issues confronting low-income families, adolescents living with chronic medical illnesses, and suicide survivors

The Department of Social Work at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has awarded close to S$280,000 in research funds to support five organisations in carrying out social work practice research projects in areas such as school attendance in low-income families and support services for suicide survivors. This initiative is supported by the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund, which is administered by the NUS Department of Social Work.

The five research projects are led by social workers from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Lakeside Family Services, SHINE Children & Youth Services, Samaritans of Singapore, and South Central Community Family Service Centre. These projects are:

  1. “Experiences of living with eczema: a multi-method qualitative study” by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
  2. “Perspectives of Long-term Low Income Clients in Family Service Centre” by Lakeside Family Services
  3. “School Attendance in Low-Income Families and Children: Beliefs and Strategies” by SHINE Children & Youth Services
  4. “Evaluation of Suicide Survivors Counselling & Support Services of The Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) Programme in Singapore – A Pilot Study” by Samaritans of Singapore
  5. “Building Assets via Home Ownership: An Evaluation of KeyStart Initiative” by South Central Community Family Service Centre

Each project, which will receive funding of between S$46,000 and S$60,000, is expected to be completed within three years. Please refer to the Annex for more information on these projects.

Associate Professor Esther Goh, Head of the Department of Social Work, NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said, “The Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Practice Research Fund is a vital resource that fuels the innovative capacities for the Department of Social Work. It enables faculty members to utilise their strong academic research competence to directly impact service design and delivery and enhance the well-being of service users through research collaborations with practitioners. On the other hand, such collaborative experiences when brought back to the classrooms, enliven the teaching and keep our training highly relevant to the current social trends in Singapore.”

Evidence-based approach to addressing social challenges in Singapore

The Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund, which was established in 2017 through a philanthropic gift of S$2.37 million from the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund, aims to support social workers in practice research projects that will benefit service provision and delivery at social service agencies. Various stakeholders, such as service providers, service users, and caregivers are involved in the conceptualisation and implementation of the research projects as well as the analysis and utilisation of the findings.

In 2018, the NUS Department of Social Work held a series of public lectures and conferences to raise awareness of practice research and build competence among social workers in carrying out such projects. The Department also organised consultation sessions with field experts for social workers to seek advice on social work practice research.

In each practice research project funded under the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Endowed Research Fund, researchers from the NUS Department of Social Work will partner social workers to jointly conduct the study. The social worker and researcher will equally share leadership, involvement and contribution in relation to the project, and they will work hand in hand to address real-world challenges in Singapore’s social service sector. In the process, social workers could build their capacity and capability to handle a variety of local issues. 

Findings from such practice research projects will also contribute towards improving the accessibility, delivery and design of social services, enhancing the well-being of service users, as well as contributing to policy discussions at the service providers and government levels. 

Project Highlight: School attendance in low-income families and children

One of the projects that has been awarded research funding will look at the motivations, beliefs and attitudes of low-income families and children towards education and school attendance. This project will be led by Assoc Prof Goh from the NUS Department of Social Work and Ms Tok Kheng Leng, Social Worker from SHINE Children & Youth Services.

Empirical evidence showed that students with poor school attendance are more likely to be from low-income families. Research has also found poor attendance in elementary school to be predictive of dropout and later school completion. Students who leave school prematurely are at risk of unemployment or unstable employment, lowered earnings, and financial strain. 

This study will focus on children in Primary 3 to 6 who are from low-income families. The team will examine the various strategies used to help children attend school regularly to understand which ones are effective, so as to introduce early intervention. 

Ms Tok Kheng Leng, Social Worker from SHINE Children & Youth Services, said, “We welcome this valuable opportunity for us to work with Associate Professor Esther Goh to investigate the beliefs, motivations and strategies related to school-going. It is an excellent initiative by the NUS Department of Social Work to support evidence-based practice in social services. We intend to use the findings from this research to inform our work to raise the educational outcomes of children from low-income families.”