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Industry Digital Plan By MSF And NCSS To Support Social Service Agencies In Improving Service Delivery And Outcomes
05 Mar 2021
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) are developing an Industry Digital Plan (IDP), in consultation with the social service sector and an Advisory Panel. The IDP provides systematic guidance on how social service agencies (SSAs) can assess and accelerate their digitalisation depending on their needs, digital readiness and future aspirations. This was announced today by Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli at MSF's Committee of Supply Debate.
To-date, substantial digitalisation support has been given to SSAs to reduce barriers to adopting technology. Funded by various Government schemes and The Invictus Fund, the support includes:
Funding for advisory, consultancy and technology implementation: While productivity and digitalisation initiatives have started earlier, 151 SSAs benefited from schemes like Tech Booster, Back-to-Basics and Tech-and-GO! in the last two years alone. Making up about half of the social service sector workforce, their staff enjoy higher work productivity with the automation of menial tasks. These SSAs use technology to increase their reach to service users, and use data to provide more targeted assistance, so that the services users could achieve better outcome.
Capability building: Under the Transformation Support Scheme (TSS), 53 new hires have been approved to work on digitalisation projects within 38 SSAs. To enable existing social service professionals to have up-to-date skills needed to manage digitalisation efforts, NCSS has also signed MOUs with four education institutions late last year to roll out customised courses targeted at the strategic, managerial, operations and tactical level to strengthen the sector’s capabilities. This is coupled with regular information sessions organised by NCSS to help SSAs understand how digitalisation can support service delivery. To-date, more than 500 SSA representatives have attended the sessions.
The Association for Persons with Special Needs is an example of an SSA that has benefitted. “Technology adoption enabled us to increase therapy sessions with our clients. With the introduction of smart equipment, we set therapy objectives, identify the level of interaction and support needed for each client based on their skills and needs, and classify the intensity of specialised attention required, all of which were previously done manually. With more therapy sessions, we see an improvement in their physical endurance, their ability to stand for longer periods, and agility in managing work tasks. This improves their employability and opportunities with employers in the F&B industry,” said Mr Jerome Anto Prakash, Senior Manager, Allied Professionals, Association for Persons with Special Needs.
While the social service sector has been receptive to digitalisation, the IDP for Social Services (IDPSS) is timely to provide more systematic and structured digitalisation support for the sector’s transformation efforts. Currently, NCSS is working on the details of the IDPSS, in consultation with industry and technology experts, and guided by an Advisory Panel. This is akin to other IDPs that IMDA and other economic agencies have launched.
The IDPSS will focus on achieving three objectives: raising productivity, improving client outcomes, and enhancing capabilities and skills. This will be achieved through structured step-by-step guidance in the following areas:
Technology adoption roadmap to guide SSAs on the most ideal technology solutions for adoption based on sub-sector needs or service types.
Training roadmap and competency frameworks for social service professionals, to raise data and digital literacy and skills of the workforce so they can effectively leverage digital solutions to perform their work.
Funding and digital readiness assessments for SSAs to navigate the landscape of digitalisation and transformation grants and technology providers more purposefully.
Details of the IDPSS will be announced at the Social Service Summit in July 2021. The Social Service Summit is NCSS’ annual signature event which brings together leaders from the social service ecosystem to build networks and collaborate for change. The participants can also look forward to an innovation showcase featuring technology appropriate for and used in the social service sector.
Annex A: Likely Asked Questions
What is the Industry Digital Plan for Social Services (IDPSS)?
The pandemic has provided the impetus for SSAs to embrace and leverage technology to transform their operations and mode of delivering services. The IDPSS rides on this momentum to provide a structured and targeted approach to support social service agencies (SSAs) in their digitalisation journey. SSAs can look forward to various roadmaps, which will guide their decision making in adopting proven technology, building staff digital literacy and competencies and leveraging sector resources.
Who is the IDPSS for?
The IDPSS is targeted at NCSS member SSAs and MSF-funded SSAs to enhance their organisational effectiveness and delivery of social service programmes.
What are the desired outcomes of the IDPSS?
The social service sector will continue to operate in a resource-lean environment and, delivering and co-ordinating services is becoming increasingly interconnected through digital means. The IDPSS aims to facilitate the sector’s digital transformation by improving SSAs’ overall productivity, enhancing staff capabilities and skills, and building sector-wide resources such as peer support networks. Collectively, these seek to guide SSAs through their digital transformation and for SSAs to emerge as more effective organisations which deliver better client-centric outcomes.
Will there be changes to funding for SSAs for technology adoption?
Digitalisation will continue to be supported under existing grants (e.g. VWOs-Charities Capability Fund and Tech-and-GO!) and the IDPSS acts as a guide for SSAs to effectively leverage the funding available. Funding for digitalisation will be from the Community Capability Trust from FY2022 onwards and existing grants will be reviewed and further streamlined. MSF and NCSS will continually review and enhance the funding schemes to ensure that resources are made readily available to SSAs.
Is the IDPSS for other charities too?
The IDPSS is targeted for SSAs as the curated roadmaps will address challenges and needs specific to the social service sector. There could be similarities for digital solutions for corporate functions, but non-social service charities would need to contextualise the application of these solutions to their operating environment.
Will seniors and the disadvantaged be left out or left behind as the SSAs digitalise? How do we ensure that doesn’t happen?
IMDA recently announced the Digital for Life movement, which aims to galvanise the community to help Singaporeans embrace digital as a lifelong pursuit, and to enrich their lives. This movement will build on the momentum of many community efforts we have seen during COVID-19 to create a digitally inclusive society. Other than the Digital for Life movement, the government also has in place many programmes such as the Silvercomm, NEC PC Plus Programme and Home Access Programme to support the various vulnerable groups in ensuring IT infrastructure and services, as well as training programmes are made accessible. NCSS will collaborate with partners to ensure that the social service sector is empowered and enriched by digital technologies.
How often will the IDPSS be renewed?
The IDPSS is an iterative and live document, which will be reviewed with the pace of technology changes. MSF and NCSS will balance the need to stay relevant with the emerging trends and the need for stability to maintain the integrity of funding and other support to the sector.