Only three employment agencies have joined a pilot launched by the Health Ministry to train foreign domestic workers to take care of the elderly, even before they start work with their employers.
The Eldercarer programme was announced during the ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in April, as part of the Home and Community Care Masterplan. Maids go through four days of on-the-job training and classroom learning to equip them with the specific skill-set to look after the elderly.
The three agencies - Patience Employment Agency, Active Global Specialised Caregivers, and Homekeeper International – cited several reasons for why the uptake is so low.
Homekeeper International said the financial risk was too high.
"We have to bear the initial training fee. So if this foreign domestic worker is not selected by any employer, we have to send them back and the cost has to be borne by employment agencies," said the director of sales and marketing at Homekeeper International Mark Chin.
Such training fees and accommodation amount to about S$500 per person, said the three agencies.
According to Active Global Specialised Caregivers, some employers are also unwilling to wait for a skilled candidate and would rather opt for transfer maids.
"People come to us when there's really a need for skilled care, so usually the person would have had a stroke, needs to be discharged from hospital, would have dementia with hospitalisation or some crisis inhouse and there's nobody to take care of the patient,” said CEO of the employment agency Yorelle Kalika. “As we are a true alternative to a nursing home, usually time is of the essence and they are usually in a rush to get a caregiver from us."
But for employers like Ms Cynthia Chan whose domestic helper has gone through the training, its proven to be valuable.
Ms Chan, who lives with her 84-year-old mother who suffers frequent falls, said: "After she (their domestic helper) went for training, she understood the psychology of elderly more and with her fluent Cantonese, she can now communicate with my mother better and hence many misunderstandings could be avoided."
The Health Ministry said that other employment agencies have indicated interest in the training programme, and are still discussing it with training providers.
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