ELDERCARE services will benefit from the launch yesterday of a programme to standardise and upgrade workers' training.

It is the first official Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) training scheme for the sector.

Called the Senior Care Associate (SCA) scheme, it was launched by the Ministry of Social and Family Development to improve the quality of training, raise the image of the sector and attract more recruits.

Through two WSQ levels, workers will be trained to conduct health-related care tasks such as handling stoma bags and feeding tubes, in addition to regular personal care tasks like bathing and grooming.

This will increase the pool of workers who can handle a wider range of tasks expected to become more common as the population ages. Currently there are about 4,000 people employed in the sector.

Service providers welcomed the new opportunities provided by the scheme.

Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities' divisional director of elderly and disability services, Mr S. Tiwari, noted that better-trained workers would lead to lower turnover, and that recruitment of locals might improve with the establishment of a better, structured career path.

The increase in number of permanent and local care workers would mean their elderly clients would receive better service standards, he explained. "As an elderly recipient, if I see the same worker all the time, I will establish that rapport."

To be eligible, workers must have secondary school education. Training for each of the two levels is estimated to take two months.

Those already in the eldercare industry can also upgrade their skills or be assessed to obtain the SCA qualification. Salaries can range from $1,200 to $2,200 for those who attain the WSQs.

Each module (eight in level one, five in level two) will cost around $500. The Workforce Development Agency offers subsidies of 90 per cent for Singaporeans and PRs, and 80 per cent for foreigners.

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Halimah Yacob spoke on the sidelines of a

visit to the new Centre for Enabled Living service hub at City Square Mall.

"We hope to upgrade and enhance standards of care in the eldercare sector in community-based services," she said.

She added that the goal was to recruit 100 SCAs in the first quarter of next year, and 1,000 by 2016.