SOCIAL WORKER SHORTAGE THREATENS GAUTENG CHILDREN

Hendrika Kruger, DA MPL

DA Gauteng Social Development spokesperson

Gauteng Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza in response to a question by the DA revealed that there are 168 vacant positions for social workers in Gauteng. What is the Gauteng Social Development department doing to address the shortage of social workers in the province?

Nationally 16 504 social workers are required to provide the necessary social welfare needs of children in the country. A costing estimate conducted by Cornerstone Economic Research indicates that at least 60 000 social workers are needed for the implementation of the Children’s Act alone.

This suggests with near certainty that the filling the 168 vacancies in the province, although necessary, would not make a significant difference. The number of social workers needed in Gauteng is quite possibly in the thousands.

The current average case load for a social worker in Gauteng is about 100, when the prescribed national workload is 60 cases. Gauteng social workers are handling forty more cases each than the prescribed workload nationally. This is an enormous burden to place on someone in an already stressful and demanding work environment.

The Department should actively be recruiting graduates wanting to be social workers. The failure to hire more qualified social workers will adversely affect the lives of citizens in need of proper social assistance.

The DA-led Western Cape provincial government’s strategy with regards to social workers provides a good example for addressing this situation in Gauteng. The MEC must emulate this strategy to address this critical situation in the province. This includes:

1. Encouraging prospective social workers and seeking to revive interest in the profession.

2. Providing social work scholarships to school leavers and guaranteeing them employment on graduation.

3. Awarding bursaries to students pursuing studies in the field of social work.

4. Improving working conditions and modernising the social work service delivery environment by taking advantage of the benefits provided by innovative technology.

5. Introducing a social work Programme of Excellence to create an environment that promotes professional development and learning.

I will submit questions to the MEC requesting official figures on the shortfall of social workers in the province, the optimum number of social workers needed in Gauteng, and the current strategy in place to address this serious situation.

Social workers are an indispensable part of the network of support to the social challenges faced by the children of South Africa

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