Development of Capacity & Recruitment & Retention of Social Service Professionals:briefing

Social Development

25 October 2006
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


25 October 2006

: Ms T S Tshivhase (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Development of Capacity and Recruitment and Retention of Social Service Professionals Telephone List of DSD Senior Managers
Proposed Organizational structure and Post establishment for the Department of Social Development: Part1, Part2, Part3 & Part4
Draft Report on the study tour by the Portfolio Committee on Social Development to the South African Social Security Agency’s (SASSA) Head-Office, Pretoria (Gauteng); and the regional offices in the Eastern Cape (East London and Port Elizabeth) and Northern Cape (Kimberley) provinces (21-24 August 2006)


The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on strategies for the development of capacity and recruitment and retention of social service professionals. In general, the Committee complained about there being too few social workers and social auxiliary workers in South Africa. In addition, the working conditions of these professionals required immediate intervention. The recruitment, retention and remuneration of the various positions were discussed as well as recent alternations.


Chairperson Tshivhase welcomed the Department of Social Development to the meeting: Ms V Nhlapo (Deputy Director-General: Integrated Development) and Mr Eugene J van Vuuren (Chief Director: Human Capital Management).

Mr van Vuuren commenced with his presentation on the Development of Capacity and Recruitment and Retention of Social Service Professionals.  He stated that the purpose of his briefing is to address the Portfolio Committee on the following: development of capacity in the national and provincial departments of Social Development; relationships between different social development professionals; and the Recruitment and Retention Strategy for Social Workers.  He listed the current issues at hand namely: the sector is not well organized; lack of norms and standards for delivery of social services; the need for an Human Resources (HR) Plan; high demand for Social Workers (SW) both within governmental departments and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs); overlapping of roles and responsibilities; exodus of social workers to other sectors and other countries; fragmentation in training and utilization of other social service professionals; impact of new legislation on the demand for services such as the Children’s Act, Older Persons Act and substance abuse legislation. He revealed the current statistics of employment. 

With regard to the Recruitment and Retention Strategy for the Social Workers, the aim is to determine the conditions that impact on social work and a scarce skill, and to provide guidelines for the recruitment and retention of social workers within the profession. The objectives of the strategy are to provide a framework for the recruitment and retention of social workers as learners and professionals, to reposition the social work profession to meet the challenges of the 21st century, to promote a positive image of social work as a career of choice, and to improve conditions of the service.  Mr van Vuuren pointed out there is a high demand for skilled social workers especially within the NGO sector. High workload and poor working conditions led to burnout and poor quality of services to recipients. Furthermore he noted that Universities have high intake levels but high drop out levels occur during the final (fourth) year of studies. Universities train
± 500 social workers per year, of which KwaZulu-Natal provides the least.  It has been proved through discussions with learners that the social work profession is not viewed as a financially lucrative career and that it offers very little benefits and few career path opportunities. In general, there is a lack of institutional support and capacity for training programs, and poor working conditions, which result in malpractice, unprofessional conduct and disciplinary procedures against social workers.

The Recruitment and Retention Strategy entails material regarding employment, publicity, job fairs and career guidance processes, predefined scholarships and a database to monitor turnover, vacancy levels and migration patterns. Mr van Vuuren pointed out that there should be a balance between strict criteria and meeting the public demand. Furthermore, the curriculum should be aligned with the practical demands in South Africa. Scholarships, training opportunities and special skills workshops should be presented to broaden the scope of education to meet current demands. Moreover, additional subsidies and financial support have to be allocated and proper selection, training and staff development should be employed to improve upon the current status of social workers.

Regarding compensation and remuneration, non-monetary strategies must be implemented for improvement of working conditions, promotion as well as career opportunities, and special training opportunities. Compensation and remuneration also includes monetary strategies, remuneration and employee benefits, incentive schemes linked to achievement of targets, retention allowance (example scarce skills/rural allowances), bonuses, merit awards, payment of study debts and bursary schemes. Due to a process of regrading, remuneration packages for social workers in the government have been improved.

The job description of Social Auxiliary Workers (SAW) is in the process of being finalized. The department is planning to provide 3000 positions for SAWs per year over three years. The entry level of Social Workers will move up to level seven, whereas it used to be level six. The department is developing a proposal on scarce skills allowances within the framework of Public Service Scarce Skills Strategy.

The job description for Community Development Practitioners (CDPs) will be a generic job description up to deputy-director level (Levels 5, 7-11). The remuneration packages for CDPs are being improved. 

R2.8m has been allocated to 190 scholarships for social work learners.  Outstanding fees of 36 students were paid for.  In the future, the department would also like to make funds available for boarding, lodging and stipends.

The Service Delivery Model for developmental social services entails the reconstruction of social development institutions and alteration of the development paradigm.  The department emphasizes service integration by focusing on target groups namely, the poorest of the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized. Restructuring has to occur on both national and provincial level to reposition the delivery of social development services. They focus on building relationships between the different professions: social workers, CDPs, probation officers at provincial level, and child and youth care workers at provincial level. They wish to establish a complementary relationship between all professions in a coordinated and integrated manner. In other words, CDPs will assume a development role, whereas social workers will play a welfare role. Thereby, the development and welfare roles will contribute to developmental welfare. Social workers will focus on the condition of individual and family relations, while CDPs will concentrate on the ability of households to support themselves.   Therefore, social workers are reactive and CDPs preventive. 

Finally, Mr van Vuuren proposed that the Committee should take note of developmental measures to address the current challenges, which include: capacity building initiatives, the recruitment and retention strategy for social workers, and the relationships between social service professionals.

Ms V Nhlapo made the point that the department’s focus is on integrating all programs according to the three target groups. An integrated approach requires that all issues of a client must be addressed.  Furthermore she emphasized that the recruitment and retention strategies are already underway and implemented. She agreed that working conditions of social workers must be improved.  Finally she pointed out that the critical milestones from 2007-2010 necessitated resources.  Therefore, she pleaded to the Committee for oversight and monitoring of the department and for budget assistance and support in order to address issues at national and provincial level.


Ms H Weber (DA) called for an explanation of the improvement of working conditions of CDPs. Moreover, she wanted to know whether workshops have been held for the SAWs.  Lastly, she wondered whether advertisements have been published for SAWs who might want to be trained.

Ms I W Direko (ANC) referred to a dentists’ meeting which she accidentally attended; in this meeting she became aware of the possibility of SAWs taking over the position of social workers despite their smaller salary.  Similarly, dental assistants seem to be taking over the position of dental practitioners and are putting them out of business.

Mr K W Morwamoche (ANC) stated that staff morale is low due to disregard of promotion procedures. In addition he noted the poor working conditions of Social workers such as lack of transport and equipment. Thus he asked what the department is doing to address these conditions as well as the shortage of staff.  He referred to the entry level of teachers which does not start at level seven, but higher, and that this is undermining social workers.  He questioned the training procedures in place and whether trainees are taken equally from each province.

The Chairperson agreed that social workers are complaining about accommodation and the condition of their offices.

Adv T M Masutha (ANC) enquired about the impact of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) on social workers.  He requested timeframes for filling posts which have not been provided.  This will have an impact on social delivery. He stated that social work is a scarce skill and wondered if any strategies are in place for recruiting teachers in townships, as well as strategies for vertical job mobility for SAWs.  Furthermore, he questioned the limit of level seven to eleven and wanted the reason for not exceeding level eleven.  Lastly, he referred to the high drop out rate of fourth year students and requested an explanation.

Mr M Waters (DA) asked why the department did not choose the highest costing service model, and instead chose the lowest costing service model. He wanted to know who made this decision.  He felt the children deserve more.  The Children’s Act is currently 4% funded and NGOs have complained that social workers have left for government departments. Finally, Mr Waters pointed out that there are already too few social workers that qualify every year.  With an increase of Aids orphans, there is a need for mass education of social workers.

Ms Nhlapo explained that SAWs work as assistants to social workers. In other words, social workers do the professional work and SAWs cannot become social workers.  Currently, social workers are doing all the work and therefore function ineffectively.  The responsibility lies on the social worker, since SAWs are not registered with the board. 

She remarked that the recruitment strategies in place also addressed the improvement of working conditions which include accommodation, transport and equipment.  There is a rural fund available to support social workers within the rural community.  The entry level of level seven is according to the job description and the amount of work.

She remarked upon Mr Waters’ question by stating that the Children’s Act is already revealing gaps and problems at the lowest level, due to the lack of social workers. Furthermore, equalization of services across provinces is necessary to deal with discrepancies. Funding of NGO social workers remain a problem. However, salaries of social workers have been addressed in parliament.

Mr van Vuuren indicated that part of the funds that have been made available has been requested for development and structure building. SAWs have the option of studying further and bursaries are made available for assistance in order to graduate as social workers. The department is aware of problems relating to transport, accommodation and equipment. This varies from province to province, and requires focused intervention. Regarding workshops for SAWs, these have not been conducted to his knowledge. The department received funds from the National Treasury to recruit more SAWs in 2007-2008. He did not agree that the existence of SAWs would “kill the profession”, but would assist social workers effectively. The Cuban model proved that this working relationship would be successful.

Regarding the filling of posts, Mr van Vuuren concurred that there is a propensity for departments to employ staff from other departments. He stated that the recruitment policy stipulates that consideration must be given to internal staff above all. Additionally, 99% of all capacity building and the selection of social workers for training have taken place in all provinces. With regard to salary levels, the Department of Education had a different remuneration system than the rest of government.

Ms Nhlapo made reference to the enquiry on the salary levels. Each level indicates its function. Thus, levels seven to eleven involves a range of functions. Level 12 signifies a senior managerial level. Social workers are required at an operational level in the community and should deliver services to the people.

Mr van Vuuren mentioned that some level 12 positions are available, but only a few. In addition, he stated that few secondments have been made by other departments. At a national level, they did not receive many resignations. At provincial level, however, the greatest problems occurred. He was positive and indicated that 86 posts are in the process of being filled and 46 additional positions are underway. They hope to fill the posts within the current financial year. There are no unfunded vacancies or posts. He continued by pointing out that the reason for the high drop-out rate of fourth year students remains unanswered. Discussions are in progress and an in-depth study should be conducted to get to the root of the problem.

Ms Nhlapo suggested that bursaries should be available for third year students to support them to complete their studies and to register on the board.

Mr van Vuuren affirmed that the department is awaiting the allocation of funds from National Treasury since they are not sure how many bursaries they can offer. The Department of Education provides few subsidies. Universities have agreed to increase their intake of social work students. Mass training of social workers would be expensive, which would require extensive negotiations with National Treasury.

Ms Nhlape pointed out that unemployed teachers could not become social workers, for their curricula differ greatly. Unemployed teachers have to study in order to become social workers.

The Chairperson noted that social challenges are changing the face of South Africa. She felt that the moral fiber of the country is disintegrating on a daily basis due to the lack of professional social workers throughout South Africa.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) wished to know the minimum level of education required for a SAW. Secondly, she wanted to find out what they considered “rural” and how this has been rated. Since there are communities completely secluded from society, Ms Gumede asked about the conceptualization of “rural” in conjunction with rural allowances. 

Mr Morwamoche praised the department for allocating R2.3 million for scholarships, however, he considered it too little to address the current crisis in the shortage of social workers. He pointed out that Deputy Directors at provincial level receive the same as those at a national level. The former deals with about a hundred people personally, whereas the latter simply does administrative work. Mr Morwamoche did not perceive it fair that these two positions received the same salaries.

Mr Waters referred to the challenges of the Children’s Act. He wanted to know why the Older Persons Bill has not been included. In addition, he asked about the exact amount of social workers currently necessary for all existing legislation.

Ms C I Ludwabe (ANC) also emphasized the lack of transport in rural areas, not only for the social workers, but for clients as well. She wished to know more about the rural budget.

Ms Nhlapo highlighted three aspects: the rural allowance, salaries and SAWs. The rural allowance exists to encourage social workers to work within rural communities. This allowance is not intended to improve upon the working conditions of social workers or to provide transport. Social workers should go to the respective families, not vice versa. The working conditions must be addressed, but this is not the purpose of the rural allowance.

Currently, there are two guiding principles in place regarding salaries. They are two mandates each on national and provincial level respectively. Salaries are based on job evaluation, which determines the job remuneration.

Lastly, the educational requirements for SAWs are Grade 12 and two years of additional learnership. Currently, they are readdressing substance abuse legislation and still have to ascertain how many social workers are needed in total. The Children’s Act already necessitates 8776 social workers and 7682 SAWs.

Ms Gumede enquired whether additional funds are made available especially for SAWs. She wanted to know how they could help those who do not have the two years of additional learnership, but really want to get involved.

Ms Nhlapo responded by saying that in-service training is offered. Anyone can contact the Provincial Offices of Social Development for further inquiries.

The Chairperson expressed her thanks to the department for the good presentation and input.

Committee reports

In conclusion, both the draft report on the study tour by the Portfolio Committee on Social Development to Australia, as well as the draft report on the study tour by the Portfolio Committee on Social Development to the South African Social Security Agency’s (SASSA) Head-Office, Pretoria (Gauteng); and the regional offices in the Eastern Cape (East London and Port Elizabeth) and Northern Cape (Kimberley) provinces, were recommended, seconded and adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.




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