s.w.d. tributes receipients

One of the key focuses of Social Workers’ Day (SWD) 2007 is to pay tribute to pioneer social workers for their achievements and contributions to the profession.

Selection Criteria
  1. Pioneers / forerunners in the social work field, with at least 20 years in the profession.
  2. Had made significant contributions that were innovative / cutting edge.
  3. Had raised the standard/status of the profession.

Tribute Recipients

Mrs Janet Yee

Mrs. Yee’s social work experience focused on vulnerable children and family. Her welfare career began in 1956 as an Assistance Youth Officer in Social Welfare Department. She helped with the establishment of Girls’ Clubs, and development of Boys’ Club for juvenile delinquents. Till today, she is active in the social work scene – serving on the Board of Visitors (BOV) for Destitute Homes and on the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) medifund committee.

Mrs. Yee counts the initiation of Parent Education Programme (PEP) in 1985 as a key achievement. She describes as the first “ground-up” initiative in the social service scene, and also marked the movement of social work to a preventive/development focus. Till today, PEP and Family Week are significant programmes.

Believing that the role a social worker involves advocacy for clients, Mrs. Yee fought for abandoned children to be accorded the full rights of a citizen upon discovery of an article in the Constitution that supported this. She also recommended that the adoption extraction label be removed from the birth certificate of an adopted child, so as to avoid discrimination.

Her wish for the profession is that “All social workers play a role in professionalizing service for the welfare of society… To have a broader perspective in practice that includes the community… So as to achieve recognition as professionals.”

Mrs Thung Syn Neo

Mrs. Thung has had a diverse social work experience since her graduation in 1955 – ranging from direct work, to lecturing at National University of Singapore (NUS), and training and research work.

Her pioneering efforts include starting a groupwork programme in Prisons (with NUS students), and setting up a training and research unit in Social Welfare Department, Ministry of Social Affairs (current day Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports). At HDB, she and her team of social workers documented the social impact of poverty which led to the setting up of the Rent & Utilities Assistance Scheme (RUAS) in 1990s.

Arguably the masterpiece of her career is her conceptualization and pilot of Family Service Centre (FSC) in 1970s. Set up in a 3-room HDB flat in MacPherson, the first FSC brought social work into the heart of the community. Currently the FSC is a major part of the social service landscape.

For a worker who aimed “to walk in corridors of power” – she reflects that she is content with what she has achieved because she has done her best within her limits.

Ms Daisy Vaitailingam

Ms. Daisy hails from the first batch of graduates from the social work degree course in National University (NUS) in 1950. She commenced her career – and retired – as a medical social worker, with a teaching stint in NUS in between.

Her strong belief regarding linking patient with the hospital and community guided her practice. She initiated a resource information service in the Hospital, so that patients could obtain information about treatment costs and community resources. Ms. Daisy and her team of social workers also initiated a community housing project where they re-housed female residents from Chinatown in a communal living residence. When residents became unable to be independent in self-care, a Matron was employed to provide care to them.

Of note is her work with children. She initiated the first fostering scheme for children. This started out with assigning children abandoned in the Hospital to various Hospital attendants and ‘Ah Ma’s for care, and ended up being formalized as a Social Welfare programme. In the area of disability, Ms. Daisy advocated for financial assistance to be provided to parents of retarded children. She recounted how she identified retarded children who were wrongly placed in Woodbridge Hospital (current Institute of Mental Health) and discharged every one of them.

Ms. Daisy’s passion for social work can be seen in involvement in setting up Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW); as well as in her passion for training students to be relevant workers. Her projects with students included work with families on Public Welfare and Family Planning.

Mrs Chen Swee Soo

A medical social worker from 1952 to 1979, Mrs. Chen has worked in Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), Singapore General Hospital (SGH), KK Hospital and Trafalgar Home.

Very much a ground worker, Mrs. Chen responded to the needs identified from her practice by starting the group gathering for mothers of hare-lip and cleft palate babies in KK. She also initiated the setting up of Tampines Homes for the mentally retarded and spastic children while in SGH.

Mrs. Chen’s collaborative work with community partners such Social Welfare Department, Salvation Army, Little Sisters of the Poor, Kwong Wai Siu Hospital and Chinese Clan Associations showcased her excellent case management skills. She was also able to galvanise much financial support from Lee Foundation, Singapore Turf Club and Shaw Foundation.

Dr Sushilan Vasoo

Social work students will always recall Dr Vasoo as the grandfatherly figure with a strong passion for community work and people. From working with the top brains as an Associate Professorial Fellow in the Department of Social Work at National University of Singapore (NUS), to helping the man on the street with community projects and in pioneering services, Dr Vasoo has challenged the frontiers of social work in Singapore and has ventured the road less travelled. He is a social worker who has worn many hats – from being the first social worker cum politician in Singapore, to being recently appointed as Justice of Peace.  He was nominated for the Prestigious Katherine Kendall Award in recognition of contributions to international Social Work education.

Key contributions made by Dr Vasoo included envisioning and conceptualizing the setting up of multi-service centres; and being instrumental in initiating Senior Citizen’s Day (1979), Community Helpline for the elderly, first Community Home for the aged (1974), Disabled Day (1973), Early Intervention Programme for disabled children and Community Chest of Singapore (1983).

He has this to share with younger social workers: “Carry on doing what you believe will enhance the care for people in need”. 

Mrs Joyce Fung Yong Siang

Mrs Joyce Fung is fondly known as Singapore’s first local social worker. She has been spending close to six decades of her life to date helping the ill and disadvantaged. She worked as a social worker in the Singapore General Hospital, Toa Payoh Hospital and Trafalgar Home for close to 30 years. At her retirement, she helped to start the Breadline Group, which provides financial assistance and meals for the disadvantaged. She remains the advisor to Breadline Group to this very day. Mrs Joyce Fung believes that the true call of the profession is to reach out to those in need, and not be an ‘armchair social worker’. As an Almoner, she would do her ward rounds regularly and was remembered by many of her patients. She fondly recalls a couple suffering from Leprosy who were amputees, and that she was inspired by how they managed to cope with the disease and raise five children with minimal support. As a true testament to her passion for social work, she believes that one should “want to be in social work”, and go beyond treating social work as just a job. 

Mr K.V. Veloo

Mr. Veloo’s career that started in 1964 in Probation and Aftercare has spanned more than 35 years. During his stint in government service, he worked passionately on the issue of transportation for disabled people and on socio-legal issues facing intellectually disabled people. He also initiated the Singapore Indian Welfare Association (SIWA, current-day Singapore Indian Development Association or SINDA).

Mr. Veloo was the first President of the restructured and present Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW).  He brought about the merger of the then two prevailing organizations, one for medical social workers and the other for general social workers.

Perhaps he will be remembered most of all of for helping the social work profession to gain inroads into the penal and correctional system. He was the first social worker to hold the post of Chief Probation & Aftercare Officer. A key achievement was the setting up of the Community Probation Service (CPS) in 1971 – staffed with more than 400 trained Volunteer Probation Officers (VPOs).It became the model for similar schemes not only within Singapore but also around the region.

In 1973, he set up the first Prison Welfare Service with the aim of providing support and help to the families of prisoners. To tackle the drug problem, he initiated the mobilization of community support and involvement in the fight against drug abuse and in the aftercare of ex-addicts as Executive Secretary of the Singapore Anti Narcotics Association (SANA).

Mr. Veloo’s motivation? “There is no greater satisfaction in life than the feeling that you were able to give the best of yourself in helping someone to break out of his distress, pain or need.”

Mrs Ann Wee

When one thinks of Mrs Ann Elizabeth Wee, the following description immediately spring to mind: a “walking encyclopedia on Singapore’s social welfare landscape; has a wicked sense of humour, an ever enquiring mind, is gracious in disposition at all times and epitomizes the spirit of social justice and social work education”.

Mrs Ann Wee’s illustrious background includes her involvement in Singapore’s social services and social work since the early 1950s. She started teaching at the University in 1952, and took on Headship at the Social Work Department from 1968 to 1986. She has published books on family, immigrants and social work education in Singapore.  Conferred BBM (Bintang Bakti Masyarakat or Public Service Star) in 1972, she was further awarded the Public Service Star (Bar) in 2004. For over thirty years, she has been a member of the Panel of Advisors to the Juvenile court.

She feels that her own background in anthropology, combined with 'in service' connections with social work, have given her many thought-provoking and enriching opportunities. Her greatest satisfaction: that ‘ there are times when you realize that someone's life course and range of self-actualizing have been improved because you were around….there is something systems-holistic that is unique in what social work has to offer.”

Her three main wishes for the profession are that social workers will be more involved in post-basic skills development and Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW) activities; and also more recognition for the profession “so that social workers in VWOs are not asked to start at a salary which is only about $500 more than a bus driver - why slog through years of training? Might as well leave school and drive a bus and have 4 years of salary in the bank!!”

nominate a social worker 

Send in your nominations for our Social Workers' Day Tributes. Download the form here, have it completed and returned to socialworkersday@sasw.org.sg.

The Social Worker(s) will be recognised at a ceremony on Social Workers' Day and his/her story will be documented.

The nominees should:
  • have been in the profession for at least 20 years
  • contributed significantly to services / projects / practice models