South African Council for Social Service Professions training, accreditation & curriculum; Committee Report on Northern Cape Oversight Visit

Social Development

24 February 2016
Chairperson: Ms R Capa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Committee Report on Northern Cape Oversight Visit [Committee Report available under Tabled Committee Reports once published]

The South African Council for Social Service Professions spoke to the requirements that it has set up for students who wish to register to study social work as well and adoption work. Site visits are carried out at South African universities as part of their quality assurance that is carried out once every five years. The aim of these visits is to ensure that the Bachelor of Social Work introduced in 2007 was being implemented as part of the SACSSP’s mission to create a standardised qualification across all institutions. She spoke about the findings of these site visits which included some successes as some institutions were able to redesign their curriculum and transition well into the new system. The findings also revealed some challenges which included institutions that had not yet been able to fully implement the Bachelor of Social Work and are still struggling to redesign their curriculum to the new standard. The Council provides developmental support.

The summary of the results from the site visit describe the status of the universities which stand at nine universities with full accreditation; two universities with accreditations with conditions and four universities with de-accreditation. A number of universities have been de-accredited due to challenges with curriculum design and Bachelor of Social Work implementation which means they may not enrol any students in the field of social work until these challenges are dealt with.

This raised concerns amongst Members about students who would be enrolling in their second or third year of study who might be disadvantaged. The Council assured them that there is a pipeline programme that has been designed for these students to ensure that they are not in any way disadvantaged and can still graduate with their qualifications. Other questions included what are the ten criteria of the Bachelor of Social Work; if bursaries were still being given out by the Department to students attending universities having accreditation difficulties; how long does it take to register social workers; has the number of social workers increased or decreased; how many investigations of ethical behaviour were currently underway; and where a university is not willing to comply, how would the individual student and its qualification be protected? On the last question, the Council said that support is given at the highest level as no university wants to be seen as not offering the course.
 

Meeting report

Education, Training and Development Mandate of the SACSSP
Ms Iveda Smith, Registrar of the South African Council for Social Service Profession (SACSSP), noted that her responsibilities  include driving the operation of the Council on a day to day basis. The Council, itself, has three mandates in providing:
- Criteria and standards for Education Training and Development (ETD)
- Criteria, standards and adherence to Registration and Professional Services
- Criteria, standards, adherence and maintenance of Ethical and Professional Conduct

The Council is constituted of the SACSSP and has two professional boards: Professional Board for Social Workers (PBSW) and the Professional Board for Child and Youth Care (PBCYC). The two boards report to the Council as the umbrella body. Any rules and regulations they wish to publish must go through the Council which are then submitted to the Minister for publication. The board pays specific attention to board specific matters and the Council overall is responsible for the finances, human resources and the general governance of the professional boards.

While the Council has three specific mandates, she mentions that she will place greater focus on the criteria and standards for ETD because without this mandate, the other two cannot be possible. ETD not only touches on the students but also on professional development and with the latter, they have to ensure that professionals keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the profession.

In terms of ETD, there are requirements for registration and professional services as well as the maintenance of the ethical conduct status. In order for students to be registered and accredited, there are certain requirements Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) require them to meet. The requirements are:
- Register as from second year of study
- Undertake practical work/workplace experience under supervision of a qualified/ registered social worker
- Undertake a four year qualification in social work at a recognised HEI.

Intertwined with registration requirements are the adoptions requirements. In order to be registered as an adoption worker, an individual is required to meet the following criteria:
- Registered as a social worker
- Three years’ experience in adoption work
- Social workers in private practice without the required experience, must work under the supervision of a person who has been awarded adoption accreditation.

The Council works closely with universities and part of this relationship requires that the Council carry out Quality Assurance (QA) site visits every five years with the different institutions. During the site visit, the Council considers student ratio, work environment, sufficient lectures, supervision by an accredited social worker and adherence to requirements. During the site visit carried out in 2012, there were some challenges pointed out in various universities and these mainly stemmed from the lack of resources in those universities.

A report compiled to brief the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the status of universities in relation to the QA site visits conducted in 2012 focused on the accreditation of the Bachelor of Social Work by the Council on Higher Education (CHE).The site visits provided a turnaround strategy on how SACSSP would provide support to universities which did not get full accreditation. The report was categorised into three areas: those universities with full accreditation; accreditation with conditions and de-accreditation as well as notice of withdrawal. There are nine universities with full accreditation; two universities with accreditations with conditions, and four universities with de-accreditation.

2012 Site Visits
When conducting site visits, universities are informed of the dates that these site visits will be conducted and work hand-in-hand with the QA units of each university during this period. The results of the QA site visits conducted by the SACSSP were similar to the findings of the CHE. HEIs visited to date implemented the recommendations of the Council and it assisted them with attending to the weaknesses with the Bachelor of Social Work. The difference in the implementation of the results is governed by the statutory requirements governing the two institutions:
- CHE de-accredits a programme at a HEI
- SACSSP refuses to recognise the qualification and persons who studied the qualification.
The SACSSP requested a turnaround strategy with return dates from all affected HEIs.

Summary of Results
The results of the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) as presented by the CHE were provided. Universities with accreditation challenges were listed (see document). These comments were also made:
- Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: faces challenges regarding changing their status from notice of withdrawal to now accreditation with conditions. SACSSP plans to return to the institution and provide guidance on meeting the ten criteria requirements (including an improvement plan on how to turnaround the university).
- North West University: faces challenges with presenting a unified university branding because there is no coherence in the Bachelor of Social Work being offered on the three different campuses. There have also been challenges with incorrect student ratio between the campuses as well as equity in the spread of student ratio. SACSSP has encouraged the institution to distinguish between its lecturers’ academic status, to increase their value chain and bring a level of professionalism to the subject being taught.
- University of Venda: faces challenges in implementation of the Bachelor of Social Work and understanding of the implementation of the Bachelor of Social Work. The institution was requested to submit an improvement plan and prior to the site visit, there was such great concern over the institution that a second site visit was conducted. They were also having difficulty in attracting lecturers but at the second site visit, posts were advertised to try and attract academics
- University of Zululand: the institution lacked understanding of the curriculum design and also lacked exposure for student practical work. They have since worked with Social Development to address this issue and are now helping their students gain more work experience
- University of Limpopo: challenge in understanding of the Bachelor of Social Work and its status has been changed from withdrawal to de-accreditation
- Walter Sisulu University: challenges with redesign of qualification and follow up site visit shows efforts but not enough progress to achieve the ten qualifications.
- University of South Africa: have managed to successfully rewrite their curriculum. The institution designed a collective communication strategy and this was then filtered down to ensure there are no insecurities among students on the direction of their qualifications.

Adoptions Regulations
The current regulations 2(i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) state the following as requirements:
- Child Welfare organisations specialising in adoptions
- A unit in a state department of welfare (social development)
- Social work in private practice accredited in adoption work; or
- A combination thereof.

The PSW Council is in process of reviewing the adoptions regulations and the following areas will be considered:
- The same standards of all specialities would be followed
- Registered social workers should meet certain requirements such as qualifications and working experience to be recognised as specialists
- Registered social workers should first register with the SACSSP as adoption specialists before obtaining accreditation from NDSD
This process is not concluded and will be finalised by the incoming Professional Board for Social Workers (PBSW) and the Council.

Discussion
Ms B Abrahams (ANC) asked what the practical work for part-time students is when conducting their work-experience as they are usually already employed. She pointed out that at the University of Zululand, an external service provider had been sourced by the department and asked who pays for their services. Lastly she asked how frequently assessments are carried out and is there an existing evaluations and monitoring committee.

Ms Smith replied that the department is usually more lenient with their distant/part-time learners as they are aware that most of them are usually employed. They allow the students as much time as is necessary to complete their qualification (after hours and over the weekend work) and stress that at the end of their qualification, they need to have met the requirement to have engaged in 70% practical experience in the field. She said that in the case of the external service provider at the University of Zululand, the Council is not responsible for sourcing external subject matter specialists and that the procurement of these individuals lies with the university. The Council is only there to assist in arrears where the university has identified as needing help.

Ms E Wilson (DA) asked that in the case of universities that have lost their accreditation and are not allowed to register any students in 2016, what happens to students in their second or third year now that the university has lost its accreditation and what does this mean for their qualifications. She asked if there are facilities to accredit social workers in the Department of Social Development (DSD) and does DSD have sufficient capacity.

Ms Smith replied that as part of the improvement plan for universities, a pipeline programme has to be approved making provisions for pipeline students and ensuring that they are not disadvantaged in any way. They need universities to help them get quick wins by ensuring that as many students as possible pass and meet their requirements and these programmes will firstly need to be approved through a quality assurance process.

Ms K de Kock (DA) asked how many students at the various universities had been affected by following a non-accredited curriculum and how will this affect their registration as social workers. She asked if bursaries were still being given out by the department to students attending these universities. She asked about the capacity of the Department. While she supports the accreditation of adoption workers, how long does it take the Department on average to register social workers? How many are registered at the moment and how many are waiting to be registered? Taking into consideration the population growth, has the number of social workers increased or decreased? She asked about how many investigations of ethical behaviour were currently underway. Since the department had not transferred the R1.7 million to the Council, how has this affected the operation of the Council?

The Chairperson noted that since there is a specific subject matter for the presentation, she would like Members to stick to asking questions on that subject. If the registrar finds that the questions asked are not in line with the focus subject, she does not need to answer them. Instead, the registrar may be invited again to present on these topics which can then be deal with at the appropriate time.

Ms Smith mentioned that there are statistics on how many students are on the pipeline programme across the different institutions but unfortunately she did not have them with her. She can however make them available to any member who wishes to see them. A certain level of security has to be provided to the students about their registration and qualification. What is really important is that universities need to review their standards to ensure that pipeline students are not disadvantaged in anyway but that their qualifications are up to the current standards. On the Adoption programme, attaining this qualification stipulates that the individual needs to have been first registered as an accredited social worker. In light of this, the number of registered social workers has increased and the pool of individuals applying has increased. The Department is working on fixing its online registration process to decrease the number of physical bodies registering each year. At a postgraduate level, the list of adoption worker registrations has not been that many - just over 100 a year - and due to their live statistics on this, the numbers are constantly changing. On bursaries, the application form filled out by applicants does not make provision for applicants to state whether they are receiving bursaries so there is no knowledge of whether the Department is in fact still awarding bursaries. In terms of the increased work load, the board can register between 20 to 25 applicants on a daily basis, assuming that none of those applications have any challenges. Any money deposited in the Council’s bank account has to use their Council registration number or their ID number so that the Council can identify from whom the money originates and there are various issues that could delay the application process. On the investigation on ethical conduct, there are three sets of committees: the registers committee for professional conduct inquiry (purely for investigation purposes to decide if there is merit in the investigation and once that decision has been made, there will be a further referral), the committee of preliminary inquiry (comprises of a professional board member and a subject matter expert) and the disciplinary hearing committee (comprises a Council member, professional board member and lawyer).

The Chairperson noted that Ms de Kock’s question on bursaries, is a question which should be dealt with internally. SACSSP only deals with the registration process and DSD should attend to that question.

Ms V Mogotsi (DA) asked that all the site visits be taken to all the institution in South Africa especially in light of the new Council that is coming in as there might be some miscommunication. There has already been an outcry by the labour union. And so could there be some explanation of the incoming Council and the role of the registrar because they are only aware of the Social Workers Council.

The Chairperson noted that there is a dynamic they have not yet dealt with and that is early childhood processes. Many people have been told that they can train in Early Childhood Development (ECD) but it is unclear who is accrediting these institutions and resulting qualifications. Individuals signed up to be trained in ECD with unregistered institutions face the possibility of not being accredited. She asked that the Committee Secretary highlight this so that the damage is prevented before it is done.

Mr S Mabilo (ANC) stated that social work is a critical profession that our country needs and there is a need for it to be elevated at the relevant level. He noted that there is a compelling case to strengthen and revitalise social work as a profession in the country. He asked how student ratios within universities impact on student development (what are the challenges associated with it) and what is the norm in terms of student ratio. He asked that in relation to the issue of branding brought up earlier, if it is a challenge, what means are there to solve it.

Ms Smith replied that the Bachelor of Social Work was first implemented in 2007 meaning that prior to this; universities had individual standards and requirements for a social work qualification. Since the implementation of the Bachelor of Social Work in 2007, some institutions have faced challenges in adhering to the standard qualifications, some of which are coming up now as not all universities were able to implement the Bachelor of Social Work in 2007. This is why the Council has stepped in to ensure that a standard uniform qualification is created across all institutions allowing for students who transfer from one to university to the other, easy continuity with their qualification because the curriculum design is similar. The 2012 site visit showed that work was being done to ensure uniformity but in some cases, the challenges face by universities are beyond their capacity. On the topic of social work being a crucial profession, it has been recently been exposed at career expos as a career option for aspiring professionals.

Ms B Masango (DA) wanted clarity on the ten criteria of the Bachelor of Social Work. She asked how one can access these as they were not presented. She asked how long it takes to conduct accreditations and withdrawals at the different institutions. On the university site visits carried out every five years, she asked how the results of the most recent site visits in 2012 compared to previous visits, at a broad level.

Ms Smith mentioned that the ten criteria used by the Bachelor of Social Work can be made available to anyone who wishes to have them. On the length of the accreditation and withdrawal period, this is why the pipeline programme is so important as we have to ensure that the date given by CHE is met for the turnaround strategy.

The Chairperson asked Ms Smith speak on whether university activity has at all been interrupted by these processes as well as whether student studies were disturbed in the process. In the case where a university is not willing to comply, how would the individual (student) and its qualification be protected.

Ms Smith, on the non-compliance of universities, replied that they have not yet reached this stage because the support given is at the highest level and no university wants to be seen as not offering the course. Checks and balances will at some point need to be carried out but for now the Council provides developmental support.

Committee Report on Oversight Visit to the Northern Cape
The visit was conducted to the Provincial Department of Social Development, Regional South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), SASSA Service Centre and National Development Agency (NDA) projects in the Northern Cape. The Chairperson suggested that before making recommendations, the executive summary should be read for members who were not part of the oversight team.

Mr Mabilo who was part of the oversight team agreed with this proposal.

The Chairperson said that the Portfolio Committee encountered some challenges around oversight which included the inability of the Portfolio Committee to work with their departmental counterparts.

The Committee Secretary read out the executive summary of the draft committee report which covers the reasons for the oversight visit as well as the findings by Committee.

The Chairperson asked if members would like to make additions about their experiences or if the Committee should proceed to the recommendations. On Noupoort, recommendations were made after having listened to people receiving treatment and how they had been affected. This gave another dimension for the Department which informed them about challenges faced by drug users as well as the role of the church. When the Department engages with outside bodies i.e. the church, they need to share the modus operandi. What is being done in the province is good but not good enough because the number of substance abusers is spreading widely, especially after seeing reports on the effects of substance abuse on children. For children affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, this becomes a permanent state and affects their learning ability. Next to Noupoort was a train station but because it is not operational, the town is falling apart and so recommendations should be made to Public Works to see what can be done with the infrastructure which was meant for trains and the economic activity that was once present in the town. Some projects have been able to succeed in their work. However, upon investigation, what becomes apparent is that there is no sharing of resources between the projects which is what determines their success and failure. One recommendation should be that where there are good skills, these should be transferred to other projects working with similar cases to ensure that they all succeed.

Mr Mabilo wished to add a recommendation about Noupoort that Transnet should look into how they can revitalize the town. Spoornet used to be the main source of employment but people have since moved away and it has now become a ghost town and the only forms of employment are in the public service such as teaching. The Committee Secretary should write up the state of social services delivery in the areas seen during the oversight visit. He noted that 90% of what was discussed would be delivered to the community has in fact been done, but it would be very helpful to get the information in writing so that what is outstanding can be included in the recommendations. This would be best practice as it shows that when oversight visits are conducted, their impact is felt immediately. This helps avoid the problem of having to address the same challenges on follow-up oversight visits.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) wanted to add that the recommendations go into detail what the Committee would like to have the Minister do and so once the report is approved, it is upon the Committee to ensure that recommendations are followed through. She suggested that time frames be given to departments because often what happens is that once an oversight visit takes place, the recommendations are made but it is as if they are then filed away in a cabinet and the Committee never receives feedback. Much time and thought has gone into making the recommendations and so it has to be upon the Committee to ensure that once Social Development receives these recommendations, the Committee needs to monitor the timeline for the recommendations to be fulfilled and receive feedback in writing about their implementation.

The Chairperson noted that Ms Wilson was very concerned about NGOs and how little funding they receive. She mentioned that the Committee has been inundated with people confirming what has already been done and so to an extent the recommendations are late but she fully agrees and supports the establishment of a time frame in which to hold departments accountable for recommendations made to them.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) noted that she was not on the oversight team and as a result asked if any impact studies had been conducted to see if having a drug rehab centre in Noupoort has affected security and what is the spill over that may be happening in terms of people leaving the town.

The Chairperson mentioned that Mr Mabilo has a constituency office in that area and the Mayor has made it clear that while the oversight visit was conducted on substance abuse, they know that Social Development is the leader in fighting for a better life for everyone. Their society has fallen behind and there was hope that the Portfolio Committee in their full force would go back and listen to other concerns as opposed to focusing only on the existing projects. Part of their burden comes from the Eastern Cape because a lot of the drug affected youth stem from Port Elizabeth and since they have better projects, these children are flown in. She agreed that the Committee should actually go back for another visit and focus on how they can improve the economic status of the people so that they can fight a better battle against substance abuse.

Mr Mabilo pointed out the importance for the Committee to understand that the drug rehabilitation centre is a private institution and admission into the centre is very expensive with a minimum entry fee of R35 000. It should therefore not be seen as a public institution but rather one that depends on the affordability of the person needing help. This then means that the poor people of the community who struggle with drug abuse cannot find help.

The Chairperson mentioned that the report must not only reflect substance abuse but that there is driving force to do something different.

Ms Abrahams echoed that it is fundamental that they follow up and follow through so that the oversight visits are not a waste of time and money.

Ms Dudley pointed out that the aim is to stimulate economic growth within the area for the sake of the people but she asked if there were any security risks or fallout from having a drug rehab centre there. She suggested that looking into whether the drug rehab centre might be having a negative impact that can be sorted by having added security.

The Chairperson noted that they were unable to meet the Premier on their last oversight visit but the people need support especially in the form of funding to help aid the work they are doing which is something the Portfolio Committee might be able to help with.

Ms de Kock agreed that Mr Mabilo get a report back since the oversight visit in the Northern Cape. She made a general observation that she felt the recommendations were very vague to such an extent that they do not make a difference and have no meaning. She is unsure of whether the oversight visit and the subsequent recommendations were sufficient.

The Chairperson agreed that nature of visit to an area should be holistic and it should not only deal specifically with the mandate of that visit. Noupoort was dealt with in an in-depth manner and the Department dealt with that and brought forward a report. The Committee Secretary would link up with the department and find out if the recommendations were implemented. The standard practice is that when there is no need for new policy or more funding and the problem issue is known, the problem cannot be dealt with in isolation without including the causes of that problem.

Mr Mabilo disagreed that the recommendation are vague. He finds them straight forward and simple. He notes that it is not up to the Portfolio Committee to come up with intricate and detailed recommendations as the ones they have put forward are based on their findings on the oversight visit. Their mandate as the committee is not to reinvent the wheel but to tighten up on what is already there. He said that the recommendations are easy to implement and follow through.

The Chairperson proposed that since the other committee members were not part of the oversight team, that the members read the draft reports on Northern Cape and Eastern Cape before adopting them. Currently the Committee is unable to have a thorough discussion on the reports so the adoption of the reports will be postponed. The reports would be adopted at the next meeting.

Meeting adjourned.

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