“Social service professionals can expect a pay rise of between 3 and 19 per cent this year, depending on their level of competency” (Social Service Professionals to Receive 3% to 19% Pay Hike, Kelly Ng).
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has decided to earmark S$12 million “to support the [voluntary welfare organisations (VWO)] in raising salaries” (TODAY, Mar. 14), years after the Singapore Association of Social Workers – concurring with Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s call for more competitive pay for social service professionals in 2013 – had asked for a comprehensive pay review. It has been argued that social workers should not be motivated by the remuneration they receive, though some pragmatism could encouraged well-qualified professionals to enter and stay in the industry.
Even more encouraging was the announcement that the MSF “will increase professional development opportunities” as well as “strengthen corporate capabilities and governance among VWOs”. In fact around the world the concept of performance measurement and management (PMM) for non-profits and charities has gained traction, wherein organisations use data and analysis to measure their impact. PMM challenges traditional means of evaluation – such as the rudimentary use of feedback forms or key performance indicators of attendance for instance – so as to hold VWOs more accountable for their effectiveness.
In this vein besides the present empowerment of social service professionals through the government, a move towards PMM in Singapore should be considered. Already in Singapore the national charity portal provides key information of the charities – including annual reports and statements of accounts – which also adhere to the Code of Governance. The National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre has sought to plug the PMM gap with its independent charity analyses by gathering quantitative and qualitative data on governance / leadership, programmes / results, finance, as well as organisational impact, yet the scope and scale of this useful research should be extended to more non-profits and charities.
These processes may seem demanding and tedious, but these expectations will make for a stronger social service. PMM complements the existing regulatory infrastructure, and as mind-sets of organisations and individuals shift there will be demand for higher standards and more rigorous outcomes. In the long run donors and volunteers could also be more discerning when deciding between organisations, and supporting those that yield the greatest benefits in its areas of impact, beyond the mere alignment of interests.
And ultimately we will be all the better for it. Public trust in the social sector remains high, and if its organisations strive to hold themselves to higher standards in terms of accountability and ascertaining their impact, which will bode well for their beneficiaries.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.