Singapore’s Financial Capability and Asset Building Project Expands to Nationwide Scale

In January 2017, the Next Age Institute (NAI) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) began the Singapore Financial Capability and Asset Building (SG FCAB) initiative. The goal of the initiative is to develop Singaporean social workers’ knowledge and skills for working with vulnerable low-income families on their household finances.

The SG FCAB initiative was planned as a three-phase process. In the first phase, a team led by Margaret Sherraden, Brown School Research Professor to adapt the U.S.-based FCAB curriculum to the Singapore context.

“It’s wonderful partnering with our social work colleagues in Singapore to translate the FCAB curriculum. We’re learning from each other as we consider how to build financial capability in a very different national context,” said Sherraden at the time.

Group activity during a training on “Understanding Household Finances”

The second phase involved a pilot-test of the curriculum with 60 NUS social work undergraduates and 92 registered social workers in addition to the development of a web-based training platform and program information resource for social workers.

Bernard Chen, senior social worker of Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home described how he benefitted from the pilot training: “I found myself to be better equipped in helping families to make sense of their financial situations and in developing a plan to achieve their financial goals in the landscape of Singapore.”

Other social workers who participated in training detailed how it enabled them to better integrate financial matters in social case intervention and be more effective in assisting clients. Associate professor Corinne Ghoh, then co-director of NAI NUS in charge of the SG FCAB initiative in phase 1 and 2, said, “Besides knowledge and skills, the SG FCAB initiative has increased awareness amongst social workers to be creative in navigating the systems of help and advocating for the financial well-being of their clients.”

Moreover, SG FCAB developed a web-based component that provides a one-stop, easy access of SG FCAB information for both training and practice purposes.

Group activity during a training on “Micro Skills”

Now entering its third phase, SG FCAB curriculum training will be rolled out as a Continuing Professional Education Program for practicing social workers on a nationwide scale by the Department of Social Work at NUS.

Now titled the SG FCAB Training program, the effort will train some 250 Singaporean social workers by the end of 2020. As a full-scale program, the reach of FCAB extends beyond the testing phase in an academic setting and into wide practice implementation.

Practicing social workers will now have the opportunity to learn about and integrate FCAB concepts into their work with financially vulnerable clients. Such clients may struggle with matters such as budgets, managing cash, credit, debt and saving for retirement.

The SG FCAB curriculum will also be taught as an undergraduate module in social work education at NUS. Social work students will be equipped with knowledge and skills in FCAB and able to assist low-income clients gain access to services and schemes to better their financial well-being.

Participants of the SG FCAB Training program will receive comprehensive training on 17 topics. Some key topics include “What is FCAB?” which explores the fundamentals of FCAB theory, “Why Social Work?” which highlights social workers’ role in improving financially vulnerable clients’ financial well-being, “Employment and Earnings,” which focuses on helping low-wage clients understand and maximize their income and “Problem Debt Management and Debt Negotiation,” which offers strategies to negotiate and manage problem debt.

The 60 social work undergraduates who completed the SG FCAB module at NUS

The SG FCAB Training program will be offered through a combination of classroom training and online learning. The in-class training takes place over three days using blended learning method, and the e-learning portion is estimated to take 8 hours to complete.

The SG FCAB initiative is funded by United Way Worldwide on behalf of Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citigroup. To date, they have supported the development and implementation of the SG FCAB initiative with a generous gift of US$630,000. The initiative also has the support of the Ministry of Social and Family DevelopmentSingapore Association of Social WorkersNational Council of Social Service and Institute for Financial Literacy.