Draft Social Work Amendment Bill: hearings

Social Development

30 August 1998
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Meeting report

WELFARE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

WELFARE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
31 August 1998
DRAFT SOCIAL WORK AMENDMENT BILL: HEARINGS


ORAL SUBMISSIONS PRESENTED BY:
Sheila Hurford and Mr Middleton of the SA Interim Council for Social Work
Bertram Pitts of the Development Workers Association
John Pledger of the S A Association of Social Workers in Private Practice
Merle Alsopp of the National Association of Child Care Workers

SUMMARY
Seventeen written submissions regarding the Social Work Amendment Bill had been received, of which eleven had been distributed to members on the previous Friday. NEHAWU, who had evinced great concern about the Bill, was still hoping to send in a submission. Four oral submissions were presented.

DETAILED MINUTES
Ms Sheila Hurford, accompanied by Mr Middleton, of the S A Interim Council for Social Work, gave the historical context of the Bill. The pre-transformation Social Work Council had consisted of 8 elected members and 4 appointed by the Minister. The S A Interim Council for Social Work had started with 14 appointed members. An interdict was brought against the Minister, the Department and the Interim Council requiring greater representivity. This was achieved through 7 additional appointments, but this process had delayed the drafting of the Bill by a year.

The new S A Council for Social Service Professions would at present accommodate trained social workers, social auxiliary workers (who receive a specific training diploma), and student social workers, registered under the social work Board, and three levels of child care workers registered under their own professional Board. It was envisioned that other professional Boards would be set up for other categories of allied workers who needed/wanted to be registered. Other possible categories are development workers, pastoral workers, probation officers and mediators.

Elections for the Council and the current two autonomous Boards, for which the regulations had still to be drawn up, would cost in the region of R100,000, bringing the projected budget deficit to close on half a million rand.

In the future, elected representatives of the Boards would serve on the Council, but initially the Council must first be constituted before it can establish the Boards. The Bill calls for between 18 and 30 members of the Council, chosen by a hybrid process of appointment and election by various electoral colleges. At present this would mean only 6 elected meMbers and 12 appointed, which is not well balanced.

The Interim Council's term of office ends in February '99 and the regulations will have to be written and elections for the new body held by then. The chairman noted that the Portfolio Committee would also need to scrutinise the regulations before the end of the session.

Ms Hurford shared her concerns that : -
The wide spread of members might dilute the Council's professionalism
- The imbalance between elected and appointed members was unwise
- Representivity needed to be ensured in the future, although the Minister would appoint from lists of nominations
- There would be extra costs incurred in this year of transformation and establishment
- Some social workers felt that the process had been speeded up too much.

Mr Middleton supported what she had said and asked if it would be possible to reduce the number of appointed Council members temporarily.

The chairperson agreed that the draft Bill had been received very late - on 24 August, when it had been made pubic on the Internet only. But he pointed out that his office had then been very active in contacting all relevant NGOs countrywide to encourage submissions, of which 17 written ones had been received. In reply to Ms Cupido's complaint that access to the Bill had been too short, Ms Hurford explained that a newsletter giving a summary of the Bill, its implications, and the address of the secretary of the Portfolio Committee had gone out considerably earlier.In reply to a question from Dr Mbulawa she confirmed that the process had been changed en route, due to the interdict brought against the Department, the Interim Council and the Minister who, in spite of the unforeseen delay, refused an extension of time.

To a question from Ms Gandhi Ms Hurford replied that there would be a differentiated fee structure. It was agreed that the regulations would need to define professional categories in terms of functions and qualifications, Professional Boards and the registration of specialities within those Boards.

Mr George was concerned that the Bill had only been made public officially by the Department over the Internet ; and that there was an imbalance between elected and appointed members of the Council.

Ms Coetzee pointed out that the hands-on work is not always done by trained social workers. All workers in the field need appropriate training, although salaries will vary. Ms Turok queried whether the Interim Council had taken into account the White Paper's recommendations regarding development workers. Ms Hurford stated that the proposal was not limited in any way to social workers, but also catered for other categories.

Ms Tambo picked up on a suggestion for private sector fundraising to cover the projected deficit to query whether private funds can go to a government structure. Ms Hurford stated that the Council would receive some state funding, but beyond that was dependant on membership fees. An expropriation from Parliament was needed to cover the extraordinary costs of the transformation year. Thereafter the Council and its Boards should be self-sustaining. To a question from Ms Tsheole whether the numbers in South Africa warrant separate Boards and speciality registers, she replied that at present there are some 10,000 registered social workers, some of whom want to register specialities - this must be self-financing of course. The on-going need for grassroots workers without formal training was recognised.

Mr Bertram Pitts of the Development Workers Association made his submission. They had been unable to participate earlier in the drafting process, but had applied for registration with the Interim Council, which had relegated them to the category "social auxiliary workers" which they felt was inappropriate. Well before '94 this new type of social worker found a role in macro grassroots issues rather than individual casework. They did not have the advantage of formal training, but did sterling work in the community. He was concerned as to what entry level would apply to them in terms of the new Council.

Mr Saloojee asked, now that all social workers include development work in their training, what the difference is between the two categories. Mr Pitts described their role as people with credibility each working in their own community as a link between the community and government departments. They do not handle casework or statutory one-on-one work, but are trained in conflict management and community dynamics. Many are employed by the social work department. They are agents of change working towards the goals of the RDP. He replied to a query from Ms Turok by stating that they have a national association which works in all tiers of government although they receive no official recognition. Ms Tsheole queried the relationship between development workers and social auxiliary workers. Ms Hurford stated that within the social work profession, social auxiliary workers assisted social workers. In the Personnel Standards Document no separate category had been set out for development workers, so perforce they were put into the category of social auxiliary workers . Mr Pitt explained that the task of development workers was the social, economic, political and cultural development of communities, and the linking of local to macro issues. Mr Saloojee made a plea for their appropriate recognition.

Mr John Pledger of the S A Association of Social Workers in Private Practice (SAASWIPP) made his submission - SAASWIPP's 800 members have an average of at least 4 years experience each. They support the inclusion of other categories under the new umbrella Council, but they are concerned about its composition. This Bill abolishes the position of social workers as the core agents of social service delivery, and reduces them to the level of their auxiliary or allied workers, whose struggle for recognition they have long supported.

The White Paper noted the importance of private social workers dealing with individual casework, complementing the current emphasis on development social work. This has inevitably led to a deterioration in casework in both the public and subsidised sectors, which may well have an effect on election results. Private social workers , who do not only service the elite, must be catered for in the new structures and be able to register separately. Mr Saloojee clarified that this did not include social workers employed in NGOs. Mr George noted that social workers feel awkward when faced with admitting to the inadequacies of government social services.

Ms Merle Alsopp of the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) made her submission - They celebrated this Bill. Founded in 1975 they are the only NGO catering for child and youth care workers and have long lobbied in vain for a statutory regulatory body. There are 6-8,000 child care workers working with 30,000 troubled youngsters, for the most significant part of their lives. Because of the need to regulate training qualifications and set up a code of conduct, they had set up their own registering body in 1982. In answer to a question from Ms Turok she stated that about 1000 child care workers had registered with them, and about 270 facilities had done so, but 3000 people had attended their training courses last year.

Ms Gandhi felt the profession needed regulation as well as protection. She felt the Bill did not sufficiently encourage interaction between categories, with power sited in the Boards and the Council mostly filling a co-ordinating role. Dr Jassat asked whether it was really necessary to separate categories, since today all social workers should also be development workers with a preventative rather than a curative function.

Ms Turok asked if all social workers have to register as apparently so far only 1,000 out of 8,000 child care workers had registered, and no development workers. Ms Hurford clarified that all trained social workers have always had to register, with the original "grandfather clause" allowing exemption from qualifications to experienced mature practitioners now applicable to other categories. Ms Alsopp said that very many child care workers have had the necessary basic non-formal training.

The meeting closed at 1.30 pm, and it was agreed to meet next at 3 pm on Thursday to review the other written submissions.

PRESENT : ANC - E Saloojee (in the chair) M Coetzee-Kasper E Gandhi E Jassat M Maine N Shope A Tambo N Tsheole M Turok NP - P Cupido C George N Madubela K Nqwemesha I Zerwick FF - W Botha DP - B Mbulawa ACDP - K Meshoe

APOLOGIES : R Capa (ANC), R September (ANC), J Dowry (NP), T Malan (NP).

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