Ever Wondered How Social Services Continue To Function In COVID-19?

If you have ever been curious about Social Work, you are in luck. This week, Snapee brings to you exclusive insight into the life of a manager in this field. How are Social Service organisations coping in this COVID-19 pandemic? How have they been adapting their operation processes to continually reach out to their beneficiaries? Are there any changes in processes in phase 1 and 2 of circuit breaker? Read on to find out more.

Background information

Angelica* has been in the Social Work field since 2004. Started as an administrator to her current post of a manager, she has worked at several Social Service organisations with 15–16 years of experience under her helm. The array of clientele she has served include – children, youth, families, low-income, family violence, and currently, seniors.

After many years in the industry, she discovered that she has an interest in interacting with and understanding seniors. Hence, she decided to follow her passion although it does not pay competitively. She also believes that she is contributing to a more age-friendly world for herself and her descendants as seniors in future.

Disclaimer: This is Angelica’s* personal work experience and may not be a good representation of all non-profit organisation’s practices. Names have been changed at the request of the interviewee to protect her identity.

How is working life Pre-COVID, Post-COVID, and Phase 2 of Circuit Breaker?

Pre-COVID: Face-to-face engagement with seniors occur on a daily basis as most seniors will come to the centre to explore, interact, and obtain information on programmes regularly. We see the happy faces of seniors coming for board games, activities, or even to sit around at our café for a free cup of coffee or tea.

Post-COVID: Face-to-face engagement with seniors dropped as we transit to doing mainly phones calls. For seniors who are staying with their loved ones, our call frequency to them is reduced since they have their own support system. For those who do not stay with their loved ones, we would call them weekly to check-in on their wellbeing and ensure their safety during this period. No programmes were held during circuit breaker.

Circuit Breaker Phase 2: The centre is planning post circuit breaker programmes through online platforms, however no concrete plans have been made as the challenge has always been the lack of access to wifi or seniors with no knowledge on how to use technology. There is no change in work arrangements as the centre will not be starting any F2F engagements soon, since our clients are seniors who are susceptible to the disease.

How are the seniors affected by COVID?

The seniors we contacted are relatively obedient – heading to the market only once a week to stock up on essential household supplies and staying away from crowds as advised by the government. Most seniors use phone calls to chat with their friends or loved ones. In fact, we identified that there are more seniors with children calling them regularly during this period as compared to pre-COVID days, hence I believe that this situation has helped some seniors to bond more with their family members.

For those who require further assistance, we will work with community partners in the area to assist them whenever necessary. For example, we managed to connect a neighbor to purchase meals for a senior who required assistance. This continued for 2–3 days, where the volunteer would hang the purchased meal at the door, until that senior started receiving free meals from an organisation.

With Singapore in phase 2 of circuit breaker, more seniors are meeting for grocery shopping or meals at coffeeshops. They do however, refrain from travelling far, and some continue to stay home most of the time.

How do you think the seniors’ mental health are affected?

Our weekly 30-minute calls allow us to identify seniors who require intervention on their mental health. Seniors with knowledge on technology uses YouTube a fair bit, otherwise they will be watching television programmes. As circuit breaker measures ease up, their lifestyles are expected to normalise back to pre-COVID days.

We have released our contact information to all registered seniors at our centre in case they require assistance. Our centre also disseminates messages regularly through WhatsApp so there is a consistent platform for them to contact in case of emergency.

Any words of encouragement to seniors in this crisis?

Circuit breaker is a new thing in Singapore and around the world. Although SARS was a global pandemic, COVID-19 is arguably more challenging due to globalisation. I am hopeful that Singapore will pull through this economic crisis and move towards a COVID-free nation soon. I look forward to seeing seniors coming to the centre – smiling and getting involved in activities again. Meanwhile, stay safe and away from the crowds. We will pull through this situation very soon!

Many of us may be excited to head out now that circuit breaker measures have lifted, but Snapee urges everyone to remain vigilant as the epidemic is far from over – there is always risk in resurgence of community cases – as observed in many countries abroad. If you would like to stay home and GrabFood, we have a giveaway specially curated for you on our Instagram page @Snapee.co, ending 28th June 2020, 2359 hours!

Stephanie Ang

Dreams about travelling, eating, and making a billion bucks.

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