TL;DR – Social service officers need protection too.
It was reported that the needy are taking to social media to vent when they are unhappy with the government aid or intervention. Some are also using social media to appeal directly to the public for donations.
It is testament to the big-heartedness of Singaporeans that some of these needy are successful in raising funds when they appeal directly to the public. For instance, Ms Tam Chek Ming, who has ovarian cancer, successfully raised $900,000 in donations online. It shows that Singaporeans are willing to step in to help one another, without having to only depend on the government. That’s heartening.
However, I get a little uncomfortable when the needy take to social media to unreasonably vent their dissatisfaction. Some aid recipients post about how their welfare aid is insufficient to meet their needs. Sure, maybe the amount of aid is insuffient. Then there are parents who use the social media to contest the authority of welfare officers tasked with removing children from their alleged abusive homes. But, surely the authorities have to err on the side of caution in such cases, no?
And worse, some have released the social service officers’ personal details – from names to identification numbers – online.
Social workers and welfare officers need to feel assured and supported
The decision to remove children from their parents is never taken lightly. It’s made only after careful consideration and various reviews. And it is always done in the interest of the child. Understandably, some parents may not like the decision and will object to the decision.
But can we, as a society, forgive ourselves if something terrible happens to the child had the child been left with the family?
That’s why officers who are in charge of the cases need to feel assured that they can do their jobs without fear that doing so will have any adverse impact on their personal well-being. That’s why we need to support these officers so that they can wholeheartedly do their job well. That’s why we shouldn’t let people get away with releasing the personal details of welfare officers online.
Infinite needs, finite resources
What about the complaints that welfare aid is insufficient? Surely it’s alright for the needy to vent their unhappiness online?
So long as no personal details of the social workers or welfare officers are released, there isn’t any issue for the needy to share their side of the story on social media and explain why they think they should get more.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the government should and will give more. Why? Because it’s easy to just give out subsidies and social assistance. But once the government gives one person more, it may end up having to give many people more money. So where and when does it end?
The money that the government gives as subsidies and social assistance to the needy comes from the taxes we pay. As deep as the government’s pockets appear to be, there is a limit. Our reserves? That’s not a bottomless pit, you know. And there are many other important and vital things that the government needs to spend on, like education, job creation and infrastructure and preparing the nation for the increasingly shorter and sharper economic cycles, and for disruption.
So good if there are more helping hands
But if the needy really think that their story is so compelling, they can learn from Ms Tam and crowd fund. And if Singaporeans really want to help, we can. Not everything has to depend on the government. Not every problem or situation can only be solved by the government. Money from the government can be the first aid, but it needs not be the only aid.
We can certainly step in if we think the government’s not doing enough.
Not only does that free up more resources for the government to help more people and spend on other aspects of nation building, this also brings the community closer together. It brings back a certain semblance of the kampung spirit, where people help one another directly. That, in itself, can be a good thing too.