Challenges of social workers

Mar 2012    
Having understanding and sympathetic colleagues help Mr Ephraim Pan (right) to cope better with his work stress. – MWS picture.

LIKE MANY OTHER PROFESSIONALS, Mr Ephraim Pan writes and files reports, does paperwork, and liaises with external agencies to get his work done. However, unlike the usual desk-bound employee, his work is anything but routine. In fact, it can get very exciting.

Mr Pan is one of 600 social workers in Singapore. On a daily basis, as the Senior Social Worker at Daybreak Family Service Centre (DFSC), a community outreach of the Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), he has to meet clients, plan and manage their cases, and even cope with emergency situations that can take place any time.

He said: “Life can get too exciting here. I would get a morning call that requires my immediate attention or a case could turn into a family violence crisis. Such situations usually take up the rest of the day or even most of the week, which leaves me with less time to handle my daily roster of cases.”

What makes it even tougher for social workers is when the clients sometimes get too demanding or are unappreciative, even resorting to threats. Not only do the workers feel discouraged and undergo emotional turmoil, they have to be professional and continue helping the needy, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

With these challenges, social workers have to be very persistent. Said Mr Joachim Lee, Director of Tampines Family Service Centre: “We still want to help. We believe that by helping them and not responding to the threats, we are able to get them out of their troubles.” However, there are also limits to how much social workers can do, especially if clients do not make enough effort to help themselves.

But more than just having to cope with some clients’ unreasonable behaviour, one of the biggest challenges for a social worker is to deal with the emotional repercussions of each case.

Mr Lee said: “Different cases affect you differently. I am saddened when I see people who are victims of circumstances. I am frustrated when cases don’t progress, I am anxious when clients are in danger, and I am even angered by injustice.”

For Mr Lee, his Christian faith, prayer life and support from colleagues keep him anchored. Likewise for Mr Pan, whose “great colleagues and a supportive spouse” motivate him to continue his work, while keeping him upbeat. “My faith assures me of my work. We may feel helpless and hopeless about the work we do and it is only because we know that our God is a caring one that we can trust in His eventual plan for the clients,” added Mr Pan.

More importantly, witnessing good outcomes is affirmation that their hard work and patience has paid off. Mr Lee remembered trying for a year to help a family to improve their financial situation without any progress. Just as he was about to move on, the family responded and even wanted to learn more about Christianity.

Concluded Mr Pan: “It is a reassuring feeling to know that our clients have been positively impacted by the work we do. I also constantly remind myself that we are not the ones creating change. We only have the privilege in participating in God’s plans.”

Michelle Tan is the Senior Executive (Communications) of the Methodist Welfare Services.

More needed to help those in need

WE NEED MORE PEOPLE who are willing to serve in this area of social work, helping those in need or in distress.

While working in the social service sector has its challenges, being in the MWS gives employees exposure to multi-faceted issues faced by Singaporean families. Its family-like work environment ensures that people from all backgrounds are accepted and able to excel in their work.

Mr Alvin Goh, Senior erapist at Covenant Family Service Centre, said: “You get to work with the marginalised and the disadvantaged, and that allows you to feel the pulse of WE NEED MORE PEOPLE who are willing to serve in this area of social work, helping those in need or in distress.

If you are passionate about serving, we invite you to join the MWS. Please visit www.mws.org.sg for our list of available positions or contact our Human Resources department at 6478-4315.


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