Establishment of Professional Boards in Social Services: briefing by South African Council for Social Services Professions

Social Development

10 March 2003
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE: SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
11 March 2003
ESTABLISHMENT OF PROFESSIONAL BOARDS IN SOCIAL SERVICES: BRIEFING BY SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL FOR SOCIAL SERVICE PROFESSIONS

Chairperson:
Mr E Saloojee

Document handed out:
Discussion Document on Establishment of Professional Boards in Social Services (Appendix)

SUMMARY
The South African Council for Social Service Professions briefed the Committee on salaries of social service workers, the establishment of professional boards and the future constitution of the Council. The Council also referred to Ethical Codes and Professional Conduct and education and training. Members argued for the transformation of some areas in the Non Governmental Sector.

MINUTES
Prof Louw and his fellow Councillors presented the briefing.

Background of the Council and accomplishments since its constitution in 1999
Prof Louw said that the purpose of the Council was to act as a regulatory body. The Council established the minimum requirements to be a fully qualified professional and was available to the public to be alerted on any experiences of unprofessional conduct by social service professionals.

Prof Louw referred the Committee outlined the Council's accomplishments since its constitution was drawn up in 1999. He also drew the Committee's attention to the fact that the Council had relocated from leased premises. The Council had used finances from accumulated reserves to buy the new property, thereby turning liquid assets into an accumulating fixed asset.

Prof Louw said that the Council had reviewed their procurement policy to incorporate a Black Economic Empowerment component.

Salaries and Service Conditions of Social Service Personnel
Prof Louw referred to the "Guideline document for the remuneration, service conditions and human resource management in the social service professions", of which Committee members had previously received copies.

Prof Louw said that it was important that remuneration for social service professionals should be upgraded from a six to a seven-remuneration level to reflect the statutorily determined four-year university qualification. The present level six remuneration was usually paid to those with a three-year qualification. The Ministry of Social Services and Public Services and Administration were working on this and that the Health and Welfare Bargaining Chamber had also taken it up.

Prof Louw added that many professionals worked under unsatisfactory conditions that limited their capacity to be effective.

Prof Louw said that the Council had focused the attention of the Department on the need to subsidise Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) so that they could pay their social service professionals the equivalent to those employed by the public sector. At present many NGOs were loosing staff to the public sector. Prof Louw said that it was important that the Department support a vibrant and innovative NGO sector.

Professional Conduct
Ms Du Preez said that the first draft of the Ethical Codes had been forwarded to the Portfolio Committee earlier in the year. A Committee was now compiling a set of ethical codes and ethical code guidelines, at the request of the Council. The guidelines were intended to aid practitioners in applying and understanding the ethical codes. Ms Du Preez noted that the second draft would be available in the next three months.

The Establishment of Professional Boards
Prof Louw said that the Minister and the Director-General had confirmed the regulations for a professional board for child and youth care that morning. The regulations were to be published for public comment on Friday 15 March and the regulations for the board for probation on the following Friday.

Prof Louw went through the establishment of Boards for the following as covered in their briefing document. The Boards would cover the following areas: social work, child and youth care and probation work.

On 6 March the Council had decided that the above three boards should be established concurrently.

He added that R500 000 had been transferred from the Department to the Council for the establishment of these boards.

Future constitution of the Council
Mr Louw said that, following the Health Professionals Council, instead of professionals being elected to Council they should be elected to the respective Professional Boards who in turn will nominate their representatives on Council. Ministerial appointments representing different constituencies such as national forums should be made to the Council and not to the respective Professional Boards.

The Task Team assigned to look at these changes had to report back in June and Prof Louw said that the Committee would be kept abreast of these developments.

As the legislation stood, Council would grow substantially and become cumbersome and possibly unaffordable. Prof Louw said that the present Council's term of office expires in June 2004. If the Council's model were changed, the newly constituted Council would be of a reasonable size.

Education and Training/Development
Ms Pruis said that this was the first time since the Council's inception that education and training was 'on the map'. Their main focus was:
-To facilitate the education and training of persons in accordance with the developmental social welfare approach.
-To promote liaisons in the field of education and training.
-To determine the minimum standards of education and training with regards to the licensing of practitioners.

Ms Pruis said that a Standards Generating Body (SGB) had been established and a Joint University Committee for Social Work had started asking interested and relevant groups, for example: trade unions, training providers, NGOs and state Departments, to formulate basic standards for training social workers. Such standards should take into account the developmental paradigm/approach, the South African Qualifications Authority and human rights issues.

Ms Pruis said that they have designed five qualifications in social work, including the Further Education and Training certificate (equivalent to a matriculation) in Auxiliary Social Work, and Professional degrees in Social Work (up to Doctorate level).

The Social Work Auxiliary course is to be seen as a 'learnership' course. It was been sent to the Department of Labour, who agreed to this.

With regard to child and youth care work, Ms Pruis said that an SGB had been initiated and a Council member and Ms Pruis were now on this body. They must find a common base with the SGB and all those involved in the training of social workers.

Ms Pruis said that they were also attending to incorporating outcomes based education.

Those working in probation were working on a similar SGB for probation.

She emphasised that quality assurance was crucial and that the Council will be working on quality assurance with the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC).

Regarding continuing education and training of practitioners, Ms Pruis said that practitioners needed to receive a certain number of points in further training/development in order to remain registered. A pilot project would be up and running by the end of this year.

Discussion
Dr E Jassat (ANC) said that he was pleased to see that there was a move to equalize the remuneration for social workers in the NGO sector with those in the public sector. As the situation stands, NGOs were acting as training bodies and then losing employees to the public sector.

Dr Jassat referred to professionals having to gain points in further education and training to retain their registration as professionals. In the health profession doctors were often too busy to be able to gain the necessary extra training (and with it the points) and had to resort to paying exorbitant fees for courses offered over the weekends. He emphasised that it was important that the Council ensure the same did not happen in the social work profession.

Prof L Mbadi (UDM) reiterated Dr Jassat's point that the issue of remuneration in the NGO versus public sectors be addressed.

Prof Louw responded that there was a historical system of state subsidisation of NGOs but that the amount had not been increased as necessary. The payment of this subsidy was a provincial competence and therefore they needed to ensure a uniform financial policy across the provinces. The Eastern Cape had, for example, increased the subsidy but other provinces had not. There were therefore national NGOs whose employees in different provinces were not receiving the same remuneration.

Prof Louw asked the Committee to use their influence to see that the Council's recommendations on remuneration be implemented as soon as possible and preferably that the increase in remuneration be retroactive.

Ms P Tshwete asked for clarity on the proposed changes to the constitution of the Council and asked if there were any guidelines on who may be elected to the Council.

Prof Louw reiterated his initial explanation.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked if employees in the NGO sectors were permanently employed as in the public sector or whether they were employed on a voluntary basis.

Ms Rajbally added that the Council needed to take note of the fact that many of the people in her constituency did not know about the NGOs in their area in order to make use of them.

Prof Louw responded that they were usually employed permanently in the NGO sector, as in the public sector. However, NGOs could not offer housing subsidies and most could not afford to offer medical aid.

Prof Louw said that the visibility of NGOs varied from community to community. He added that NGOs generally have smaller bureaucracies and are thus quicker in their capacity to deliver service. They should be encouraged to increase their visibility.

Mr Saloojee said that many NGOs were established a long time ago and some had not undergone the necessary transformation since the new dispensation in South Africa. He also asked for more information on the interaction between universities and the different Councils in social service provision and whether note was being taken of the needs of a changing society.

Ms Du Preez said that the Council shared Mr Saloojee's sentiments. Transformation existed but at grassroots level change was slow.

Speaking in her other capacity as Chief Director of the Gauteng Department of Social Development she could verify that the heads of social services were looking at the need to address transformation, but that at grassroots level there was often not enough capacity. The allocation of funds to NGOs is based on certain criteria, some of which take transformation into account. There was also a concern that if the state did not make use of some older NGOs that were not keeping apace of the need for transformation, the state would be losing out on the skills and experience of many people.

Ms Du Preez said that they were using the universities to address these issues.

Prof Louw said that an article in the Community Development Journal last year mentioned that in KwaZulu Natal, the policy makers were sometimes outdated in their approach and were not allowing practitioners to use new ideas.

Mr Saloojee asked Prof Louw what the next steps were in addressing the issues mentioned by Council in their briefing.

Prof Louw summarised as follows:
-Regulations to establish the professional boards for child and youth care were to be gazetted in the next two weeks and then be open for public comment for 30 days.
-Three more professional boards would be established in the second part of the year.
-A professional board for development workers would be established before the end of the year.
-By 22 July they will need a fully fledged proposal for a new model for the Council.
-The major challenge was focusing on standards and quality assurance of social service professionals.

Prof Louw urged the Committee Members to engage with employers of social service professionals around the need for transformation.

Ms M Turok (Council member) said that in the rural areas the conditions under which many social workers operated were very bad and that a study by Rene Shink from UNISA showed that government was not directing enough money to rural areas.

However, some social workers abused their positions. She emphasised that Council had at last drafted an ethical code of conduct for social workers to try and address this problem. The draft should be finished by July.

The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix

DISCUSSION DOCUMENT

Meeting of the S A Council for Social Service Professions with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development

Tuesday, 11 March 2003: 11h00 to 13h00

Delegation
The delegation consists of:
- Professor Lionel Louw, President of the Council;
- Ms Janet du Preez, Council Member and Chairperson, Disciplinary Policy Committee;
- Ms Mary Turok, Council Member; and
- Ms Santie Pruis, Staff Member: Manager Education and Training

Background
The present Council was constituted in 1999 and actively functioned since August of that year. Council functions through the following committees:
1. Education and Training;
2. Disciplinary Policy;
3. Finance;
4. Communications;
5. Human Resources; and
6. Executive.

Over this period the Council includes the following in its accomplishments:
- Changes in the office
= Organogram and demography of staff; staff complement is 13 members
= Information technology: emailing, web page, linked internationally, introduction of a new system

- Finance
= Break-even in accounts (from 2 successive years of deficits)
= Maintained unqualified audits
- Salaries and service conditions
= Representative stakeholder forum produced a lobbying document
= Essential thrust: increase entry-level salary from level 6 to7
= Follow-up with the relevant Ministries and Departments, unions, prof assoc, employers

- Communications
= Appointment of a manager for this portfolio
= Improving appearance and financing of the Newsletter
= Provincial meetings in 2001 and again in 2002; also regular meetings with organisations
= Improved media coverage, especially radio
= Regular contact with Minister, Director-General, Portfolio Committee, HODs, DSSDs….
= Initiating contact with SADC organisations through Dept of Foreign Affairs

- Education
= Gathered documentation on training programmes from all universities
= Amendment of registration requirements to 50% Social Work
= Facilitated establishment of Standards Generating Body (SGB)
= Completed unit standards for all levels of education and training
= Participating in the SGB for child and youth care
= Facilitated workshop to establish a representative educators' body
= Planning the introduction of Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

- Professional conduct
= Revised procedures to be followed;
= Amnesty for non-registered practitioners
= Resultant decrease in number of disciplinary hearings
= Revising Ethical Code; first draft presented on 5 March 2003

- Relocation, procurement
= Relocation to a building more representative of a profession
= Reviewed procurement policy to incorporate BEE component

- Professional Boards
= Established procedures for the establishment of professional boards
= Recommended the establishment of Professional Boards for Social Work, Child &Youth Care (possibly combined with Youth Work), Probation Officers
= General regulations published
= Regulations published in respect of Social Work

Focus Areas for this Meeting
During this meeting we would like to focus attention on the following areas:
1. Salaries and Service Conditions;
2. Professional Conduct/Disciplinary Procedures;
3. Professional Boards;
4. Education and Training; and
5. Respond to further areas of concern and questions from Portfolio Committee members.

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