By Jane Sithole, MPL, Spokesperson on Social Development:
The provincial department of Social Development appears to be confused about the role of social workers in Mpumalanga.
In a written reply to a question posed by the DA, regarding employment of social workers funded by the Department to finish their studies, the Department stated that they could not absorb the social workers as from the end of the 2011 academic year, and had released the graduates from their contractual obligations to seek employment somewhere else.
However the Department contradicted itself, in a separate response on a separate question relating to social workers, the Department admitted to a shortage of social workers in the province. The national norms and standards for a rural area on the proposed ratio is one social worker to five thousand people but in Mpumalanga, it currently stands at one social worker to almost seven thousand people.
Communities across the province battle with socio-economic problems such as drug and substance abuse, child abuse and the abuse of the elderly citizens on a daily basis. Drug related issues and crime continue to ravage the province, and groups such as the youth and the unemployed are particularly vulnerable.
eMalahleni and Steve Tshwete are amongst the municipalities notorious for high levels of drug and substance abuse, yet there is no rehabilitation centre in the whole of the Nkangala district municipality. Addicts are referred to the Sterkfontein centre in Mbombela which is the only state owned rehabilitation centre in the province.
The Department’s failure to find work for these graduates is indicative of the lax approach taken by Social Development MEC, Nomsa Mtshweni to improve the quality of life in Mpumalanga.
While much responsibility falls with the Department of Community Safety to implement specialised drug units to combat the scourge, it is vital that we provide addicts who are willing to overcome their addiction with appropriate facilities and resources such as trained social workers.
How is the department going to expand and develop drug rehabilitation centres in Mpumalanga if they fail to employ these graduates who will provide the much needed services to hundreds of families in our province?
There is no guarantee that the graduates will find jobs related to their qualification and some are likely to end up sitting unemployed with their degrees.
MEC Mtsweni must show that she is serious about providing a comprehensive and appropriate plan to help those graduates and not leave them in the streets to their own demise.
The DA will continue to fight for more rehabilitation centres to be built in our province, in order to absorb these social workers and provide assistance to the citizens of Mpumalanga. We cannot seat idle and watch as our communities perish and families destroyed while the whole province is expected to rely on one rehabilitation centre. We need these social work graduates and the department must employ them.