South African Council for Social Services Profession: briefing & Role of Social Workers in Substance Abuse Treatments: briefing

Social Development

30 May 2007
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


30 May 2007

Ms T Tshivhase (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African Council for Social Service Professions: Briefing Report presentation
Statistics for All Areas
Importance of the Social Worker: Dr Keith Kirimi presentation

The Council for Social Service Professions gave a brief report on the Council’s work, and indicated that the Council was the statutory body responsible for training of professionals of high quality to be able to address some of the challenges facing South Africa in recruiting and retaining social workers, aligning social work and child and youth care training, professional conduct and ethics and reviewing the governing legislation.  The achievements for the last year were outlined. Two new professional Boards were established; the Professional Board for Social Workers and Professional Board for Child and Youth Care. The Strategic plan focused on streamlining social service professions, promoting efficiency and maximising service delivery.
The programmes were described. Particular problems in recruiting and retaining social workers were outlined and elements of the Council’s work to address these issues were described. There were around 4 500 Child and Youth Care workers, although this was not yet registered as an occupational class. The numbers of social workers and auxiliary social workers were not increasing at a pace to meet demand. The Council’s attempts to publicising the Code of Ethics and the steps taken in disciplinary matters were described.. There were currently 45 complaints being attended to, and 42 awaiting further documents. Demarcation of services research was ongoing and would be used to inform the new Bill, which should be tabled around July 2007.
The challenges included increasing the numbers of learners, enhancing the image of social service professionals, encouraging professional development, providing guidelines, identifying unregulated groups, ensuring financial sustainability and clarifying the role of the Council and the professional boards.

The Department of Social Development summarised its work in relation to the new Bill, the recently completed study on working conditions of social workers, challenges in training and the shortage of bursary funding. The universities, without receiving further funding themselves, would not be able to increase their output of students in the field substantially.

Questions by members related to the problems in rural areas, the numbers of social workers, their groupings across the country, the difficulties in implementing the Children’s Act without substantially more social workers, the possibility of using other training colleges, the apparent discrepancy between trained social workers and the unfilled vacancies, whether a person with Std 10 could be trained to be a social worker, the bursaries, the status and perceptions of social workers, the curriculum for training, and the distinction between the Council and Boards. Other questions addressed licences, and the position of a particular blind social worker who made a brief presentation to the Committee on his attempts to find employment. Members discussed specialisation, community development, the need for a full briefing on the Social Services Professions Act, and the latest statistics. The Portfolio Committee was asked to help in recruitment issues and stress the need for social workers.

The Committee was briefed by Dr Keith Kirimi from Kimberley Hospital Complex on his work in psychiatry, with special emphasis on substance abuse linked to child and adolescent mental health. He described the basis of the programme and indicated that the contribution of social workers was vital, yet there were constantly challenges that not sufficient were available, either through Department of Health or of Social Development. He urged that there was a need to upskill social workers and move towards instituting a further qualification of Certified Addiction Counsellors. Social workers had a key role in seeing that the new national norms and standards for inpatient and outpatient treatment were adhered to, yet none of these needs would be met if social workers in the sector were not paid properly. Questions by Members addressed the interaction with the Aids Council, and with other institutions, plans to extend the work out of the hospital. The Department noted that it was working on legislation, and was further interacting with UNISA to establish a satellite institution for training in Northern Cape.  Northern Cape did not have a State rehabilitation centre.  Additional funding was allocated by Treasury, in the next financial year, for the erection of a rehabilitation centre. 

South African Council for Social Service Professionals (SACSSP)
Ms Marilyn Setlalentoa, President, SA Council for Social Service Professions gave a brief report on the Council’s work.  She identified the focus areas as including the recruitment and retention of social workers, alignment of social work and child and youth care training, the database of the Council, professional conduct and ethics and a review of the Social Service Professions Act. She noted that South Africa was plagued by many social and economic problems. The Council was the statutory body responsible for the training of professionals of high quality so that these challenges could be addressed.

The achievements for the last year included the development and implementation of the Strategic Plan for 2007 to 2010. The Council had been restructured to address equity and improve operations. Research was commissioned on the demarcation of the fields of services. There had been a review of the Act, with the Department of Social Development (DSD). Learnerships pertaining to social auxiliary work and auxiliary child and youth care were started. AS system of continuing professional development (CPD) had been started. Two professional boards were established, being the Professional Board for Social Workers (PBSW) and Professional Board for Child and Youth Care (PBCYC).

The Strategic Plan focused on streamlining of social service professions, to promote efficiency, and maximise service delivery. The programmes and priorities were outlined fully in the presentation.

Retention and recruitment of social workers was of concern to the Council. Some years ago social workers were leaving the country or ceasing to work in the sector, for various reasons around working conditions. The Department was working on a conference to launch the unified professional association in September 2007, skills development and setting standards.  The alignment of Social Work training would be done through the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), and SACSSP played an active role in determining the minimum standards for education and training. A new programme had been outlined and benchmarked and the qualifications would henceforth be standardised as a four year Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and a one year Further Education and Training Certificate in Social Auxiliary Work. The latter had been approved by the Department of Labour as a learnership. Private institutions could also be providers and a Memorandum of Understanding was development with the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA). A one year training course in child and youth care was linked to the Department of Labour.

The database of Council estimated that there were about 4 500 Child and Youth Care workers, although this was not yet registered as an occupational class. Figures were presented on the numbers of registered social workers, social auxiliary workers, and students in both classes. The numbers were not growing sufficiently to cope with the challenges. In 2006 the Department made bursaries available for students to try to increase the numbers.

The Council also deal with Professional Conduct and Ethics, and concerted efforts had been made by placing the Code of Ethics on the website, compiling booklets on the Code of Conduct and explaining the Code of Ethics to students. There were increasing complaints. These were dealt with by lodgement of the compliant, the social worker was given an opportunity to respond to the allegation, and, if warranted, a disciplinary hearing could be held. A challenge was that there was an increased number of unregistered social workers, against whom the public would not be protected. There were currently 45 complaints being attended to, and 42 awaiting further documents.

The Council was also attending to research on demarcation of services, in order to further professionalise the different social services occupations. The results would be included in the Bill to amend the Social Service Professions Act, and would determine the roles, responsibilities and scope of practice of different occupational groups. This Bill should be tabled by July 2007.

The challenges included enhancing the image of social service professionals, encouraging professional development, providing guidelines for the groups, identifying unregulated groups of occupations, ensuring financial sustainability and clarifying the role of the Council and the professional boards. The numbers of learners needed to increase and additional service providers would be needed for training auxiliary workers. There was already a huge workload on professionals, most of whom were dedicated, and were passionate about and committed to the profession. Salaries and working conditions were a problem, although Ms Setlalentoa believed that most social workers did not enter the profession for the money.
Ms Setlalentoa concluded that the way forward lay in registration of youth and child care workers, creating awareness in civil society of the Code of Ethics, ensuring that the Social Services Bill was tabled this year, and working together to achieving social cohesion and human solidarity. As poverty was one of the greatest challenges in society, social security and social welfare services were of paramount importance.

Ms Nomathemba Kela,  Chief Director, Department Social Welfare, and Member of the Council, wished to emphasise areas for which the DSD was responsible. She said it was trying to fast track the Bill, but there were a number of contentious issues, such as the definitions of different professions who might essentially attend to the same issues. Employers must provide a conducive climate for social workers and other professions to conduct themselves in a professional way. The Department had recently completed a study on working conditions for social workers.  The Department was concerned that social workers’ knowledge, skills and attitudes all contributed towards the intervention process, and they could clearly not be expected to perform to standard with poor conditions, lack of privacy and security, and insufficient office space. Many social workers were not issued with cars, and many women workers had to use public transport or insufficient own transport over long distances. Clients were often not able to access those workers. The Department was trying to improve these conditions, as there was there was conflict between the realities of the conditions, what was expected of the social workers and their Code of Conduct that should create a conducive working environment and allow for proper treatment of the clients. Ms Kela said she would make the report available. Ms Kela noted that there was a challenge also in whether the legislation could be worded to put an obligation on employers to create a suitable standard for the environment of the service professionals.

Another challenge was the training of social workers. Ms Setlalentoa alluded to the fact that bursaries were provided. Currently the Department of Education, was prioritising economics and science in the country, so most of the subsidies went to that and not to the social service profession.  During a recent discussion three universities complained that there was difficulty because without subsidies to employ more educators people could not be trained. There was currently a budget to fund 1 400 students; and next year that budget would be doubled, but there was some doubt whether the universities were able to absorb the increased number of social worker students. The same applied to Health and Wellness; where there were only nine service providers at this stage.

Ms Kela commented that there was a very good relationship between the Department and the Council.

The Chairperson asked, as far as the current number was concerned, what role Council played .

The Chairperson noted that there was a big problem in the rural areas, where social workers were hardly ever seen

The Chairperson noted that sometimes people hid behind the perception that social work was a calling and not a profession, which to her mind was not valid because there was such a need and people were so vulnerable. She asked how the Council and DSD could encourage the scholars in high school to access these programmes.

Mr M Waters (DA) referred to page 10 of the presentation reflecting 11 962 social workers, and queried the number as he had recently heard that it was only around 5 400. He asked if this was the number of workers actually in the field, or simply the number registered, and asked for identification of how many were currently working in the field.

Ms Iveda Smith, Registrar, SA Council for Social Service Professions,  took the committee through the distribution of social workers around the country and also into the provinces. Of the total number of social workers in the statistics provided, only 378 were non-working social workers. 12 000 were in the sector, NGOs, and the private sector. A lot of social workers were going to the industries such as Nedbank, ABSA, and Eskom. In the provincial breakdown KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape had a high number of social workers. This meant that the rural provinces were not well serviced, as there were  smaller number of social workers in those provinces. Urban based provinces did tend to attract most of the social workers because of issues Ms Kela had mentioned, including difficulty in finding accommodation.

Mr Waters noted that Ms Setlalentoa had said she was disappointed with the numbers being trained, and the problems that universities might have in accepting more students. He noted that if the Children’s Act alone were to be implemented properly, there was a need for about 20 000 social workers, increasing to about 40 000 over the next three years. At the current rate it would be impossible to catch up with that backlog , and unless some other plans were made, South Africa would never be able to implement the Children’s Act.

Ms Setlalentoa responded that the backlog of social service professions such as the Child and Youth Care would not only apply to social workers but to other professional workers as well.

Mr Waters had raised the issue last week of taking over an old unused college and making it into a training institute for social workers and auxiliary social workers. Obviously this would require negotiation with the Department of Education, but he queried again whether this was not a viable option, as it could help in training more than 1 000 social workers per annum.

Ms Kela noted that the presentation made by the Youth Commission had noted that the DSD was working together with the Youth Commission to identify young people that could be put into the auxiliary social work programme.

On the issue of colleges Ms Kela did not think that all options had been explored at this stage and mentioned that there would have to be work done in terms of ensuring that the standards were met, because currently training was at university level, through one college that was linked to UNISA, and institutions of higher learning. Perhaps this matter could be explored to see what was the possibility of using colleges.

Ms Setlalentoa thought it would be difficult at this stage because still had departments of social level with an intake of twenty students per annum. This would have to be improved to be able to say universities could no longer take more students. Many universities, especially white universities, would be taking twenty to thirty students; thirty was a lot. That would need to be addressed before thinking of opening up new colleges

Mr Waters also noted that there was also a vast number of unemployed young people. Last week the Committee was informed that nine million youth in this country were unemployed and that there were 200 000 unemployed graduates, simply because their skills didn’t match with what was needed. He said that surely out of this pool of people there must be acceptable people with the necessary personalities and skills to do social work.

Ms C Ludwabe (ANC) was concerned that the people did not have money for further training, and asked whether a person with Std 10 could be trained to be a social worker.

Ms Setlalentoa responded to the all issues relating to admission to university. When DSD started the process to get bursaries for students, they invited comment from universities. Unfortunately the money came towards the end of the year so that it was the responsibility of each and every university to ensure that they did not lose out but could try to get more students. Unfortunately some of the universities had their own way of distributing funds and did not match necessarily to social welfare.  Some universities would watch the number of admissions in other faculties and one department would immediately annex funds from another who had not reached the target. That was one way of making sure that the money that was given reached those who needed it. Lecturers also used other structures that they were involved in, such as community based organisations, and managed to identify children in the community in Std 10 who could not going to university because the parents could not afford it, and through this process helped those students to register. Unfortunately accommodation was often a problem, and the DSD would now also be discussing the possibility of funding accommodation for those who could not get a place in the university residences.

She added that the Department had a list of all the students who had bursaries, and where they came from, but for this year the process was quite rushed because of the late availability of funds, which were finally given just when most of the universities were about to close. Insofar as the new batch of students was concerned, provincial coordinators were used to align functions and engage in drawing in students to study social work. These concentrated on students from rural areas. The other criteria was to identify and allocate bursaries to people with disabilities.

Ms Setlalentoa said that insofar as admission of Std 10’s was concerned, there was a process in partnership with the SABC, which was running career affairs advice in all provinces. This was an ongoing programme with specific sites, and DSD and Council engaged with the SABC in terms of those sites, but the department targeted a number of schools in particular vicinity, whether those schools were rural or urban. The learners would be informed about the various social work options, bursaries available, and so on. Scholarships were advertised in the newspapers. It was understood that it was difficult for people in rural areas to access these, but it was but one of the measures being used. Furthermore the DSD relied on this forum with the Committee, given that they were in touch with people in the rural communities, and could keep the Department informed of the people who were really in dire straits so they could be assisted into the programmes.

Ms Setlalentoa added  the issue of social auxiliary workers in terms of recruitment of people with Std 10. The Department did have a programme of social auxiliary work. In response also to Mr Water’s question whether the target for social workers could ever be met, she noted that whilst the Department was working on meeting the target, it was also looking at the whole issue of social auxiliary workers and recruiting Std 10. The entry level for social auxiliary workers was currently Std 8, but DSD felt this was not adequate. Std 10 admissions would be more likely to achieve the quality of person who would be able to write reports. Students at Grade 12 could easily be easily be absorbed in social auxiliary work. The Department wanted social auxiliary workers to support the social workers, given the shortage. In this regard it was recruiting particularly Std 10s from the rural areas, to try to ensure that people, after being trained, could return to their own communities and practice in the community from a home-base.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) was impressed with the most promising presentation made to the Committee and hoped the Council and Department would implement what they were saying. She asked the President to elaborate further on the word ‘structures’ under achievements on page 3, as to how they were structured in the country. She noted some concerns with the current Act of 1978.

Ms Gumede said that the professional conduct of social workers had been raised several times and she was very pleased with what Ms Kela had to say, but warned that caution must be exercised to avoid people being fired or too much emphasis being placed on the public, who would try to drive the way in which the profession worked.

Ms Gumede noted that she had been unable to find social worker posts advertised, and asked how they were advertised. 
Ms Gumede asked whether the FET training social workers was done at the universities or within the social work profession.

Ms Gumede referred to the recommendations made about office accommodation and accommodation of the social workers. She suggested that  the Committee go out and do oversight visits, as she thought there were many offices being insufficiently used, so lack of office accommodation for one profession possibly meant that there had been insufficient consultation as to what was available from other Departments. She enquired if it might not be possible also for social workers to be housed in the RDP houses

Mr L Nzimande (ANC) noted that under the Apartheid years social workers had had a bad attitude to many people in the community. This was addressed through proper training and content of the curriculum. Hopefully the universities would include a proper understanding on the definitions of disabilities and how to handle such clients with limitations, particularly the mentally disabled, as social workers were often still behaving in ways that left a lot to be desired. He suggested that perhaps the Council could come back and take the Committee through the curriculum at some stage.

Ms Setlalentoa responded to the question on the curriculum. In the past there were seventeen universities training social workers and each university had its own programme and would decide on the kind of curriculum for social workers. The Standards Generating Body came up with a programme that focused on and identified the learning outcomes, which then guided the curriculum. The learning outcomes were designed to ensure that they would address the needs of South Africa. In the past rights were not included in the curriculum. The points now raised about social workers working with the disabled were not included. It was not a standard curriculum for all universities but one that should be aligned with the one developed by the SGB to ensure things were done properly. The individual university would submit its programme to the Council for approval, and there was inter-relationships between the Council, the Council for Higher Education and SAQA, so that before a programme was accepted by a university the university would want a letter from the Council to say they had met the standards of the professional body. That also ensured that each and every social worker qualified in the country had met those standards.

Mr Nzimande asked, with regard to registration, for an indication as to the numbers or percentages of social workers who were in government employ. He suspected there were more in the government and would therefore suggest that the conditions must be pursued with the provinces. He would also like to see a breakdown in terms of allocations in the rural areas.

Ms Setlalentoa said that Provinces had budgeted substantially for the training of social auxiliary workers because it was a provincial function. The problem was still the issue of trainers and service providers and this was being sorted out with the Council.

Mr Nzimande referred to Boards that were working on regulations, practice and other work. He thought that further information was needed on their work so that child and youth care workers, as well as others, would know if certain matters fell under the direction of the  Council or were a matter for the Board.

Ms Setlalentoa, said that there were two levels in relation to the structuring of the Council, there were two levels. Firstly there was the very Council itself. Prior to 1994 black social workers did not want to identify with the Council, simply because they saw the council as an oppressive structure. Even in the Council the racial balance was not right, so the organogram had to be changed to address the need, people had to be identified to fill in the posts and make sure that equity was addressed within the Council. At the same time professionals were engaged to look at Council with a outsider’s  eye and to identify that professional conduct applied across the board, so that the profession had to change its mindset of “us and them” to recognise that the Council was about the whole profession,  and about good service. Council had changed the newsletter to make it more attractive so that it would be read and keep people informed of what the Council was doing. The Council was focusing on changing the image of the profession for people to understand and appreciate what the Council was doing and not just to see it as a disciplinary body.

Ms Setlalentoa then addressed the question of the difference between the Boards and the Council. The Council was the juristic body, responsible for accounting, that could be sued and must take care of overseeing the activities of the Councils and the Board.  There were now two different boards –the Social Work Board and the Child and Youth Care Board. The Boards specifically determined matters such as legal instruments related to the social workers, foreign applications and assessment of foreign qualifications to check that standards  were on a par with qualifications in South Africa.

Mr Nzimande asked what problems were faced by blind social workers in particular.

Adv Masutha was concerned that the committee was running out of time for the next presentation. He proposed that Mr Mjoli, the blind unemployed social worker present at the meeting, be asked to address the committee on his experience in trying to enter the profession.

The Chairperson asked Mr Frank Mjoli to speak and he explained that he started to study social work with the University of the Western Cape for four years, afterwards taking an internship with and NGO. After that he again went to the University of the Western Cape to do BA.Hons in Developmental Studies. Since then he had been seeking employment with no response. A few weeks ago he had tried to advertise, to draw the attention of the public and the government to his situation, stressing that although he was visually impaired he had successfully applied himself to study. He only became blind fifteen years ago, when he took the decision to go back to study, and believed that by choosing social work he could help to alleviate poverty,  but he himself actually turned out to be a social problem because he was unemployed. Within 48 hours after the advertisement was printed a gentleman, allegedly from Social Development, had visited him and taken his details but he had heard nothing since. One MP was trying to find employment for him. He was dependent on a disability grant to support himself and his two children, who were both studying, of R850 per month.

Adv Masutha requested that, with the approval of Mr Mjoli, the Committee use this incident as a case study for the committee to prove how effective it was in intervening in the context of its own oversight work, and request Mr Mjoli to update the Committee of any new developments. In the meantime the Committee should  request DSD to follow up on this matter and look at what kind of interventions could be made to facilitate identification of opportunities. He noted the apparent mismatch once again in that both skills and shortages existed but were not being properly defined and filled.

Ms Setlalentoa was shocked at what she had just heard but did not know whether the disability was causing the problem. She assured the Committee that DSD would take up this matter and asked that if any person knew any social worker that was not employed, whatever the conditions, she wanted to know about it. Of course a placement would depend on interaction with provinces, but she was sure she would get support. She was prepared to guarantee employment to any qualified and suitable social workers.

Mr Nzimande asked about licences as a condition for employment. He believed that this was a Public Health matter; rather than being a Council matter. He asked for clarity on what exactly was required of a social worker and whether site visits were a necessity.

Ms Smith responded to the question of the licensing conditions, requirements and procedures. The President had mentioned ethical standards and educational standards. In the absence of those one would not be able to register a social worker. The requirements were a social work degree and the process of registering. That was to ensure that those practitioners servicing the service recipients were accountable. If they were not on the Register, in other words it they did not have a licence, Council would be unable to take action against them in terms of any unprofessional conduct. All social workers were encouraged to be on the register of the Council.
Adv T Masutha (ANC) stressed again that it was a pity the Committee continued to work without a researcher, because if it had that benefit it could have planned these briefings a lot better. The Committee would like to be able to look at matters holistically and be able to gauge what issues would be discussed and put them in context.

Adv Masutha knew there was goodwill during the budget debate. During the apartheid years the social workers’ profession was  systematically diminished in terms of its status, and sometimes actually oppressed. Fortunately South Africa had moved away from the situation where social workers did not enjoy any form of labour protection, especially those that worked in NGOs that were sponsored by government. Anger at the system could be channelled at the individual social workers, and this was a problem, as a person treated so badly could eventually take this out on a client. Having to work under such adverse conditions could not produce the kind of professionals that idealistically social workers should be. Social workers, in the civil society sector especially, continued to enjoy far less favourable working conditions compared to the public sector, despite the partnership that claimed to exist between the public and the private sector. Financial support must be given to civil society formations who employed the social workers, as the services were  essentially a public service.

Adv Masutha also raised the issue of the integration of social colleges. The Department had earlier made a presentation on the welfare services delivery models and finances, and at the heart of the identified challenges were pitfalls for the delivery of services by the social workers profession. He was not sure whether this had been identified in particular to take this forward.

Adv Masutha raised the issue of specialisation. In the early 1990’s he was of the view that the social workers must be all-rounders that could solve social problems irrespective of the nature. He wondered if specialisation or generalisation was the way to go. When the Social Work Act of 1978 was changed to the Social Service Professions Act, one of the motivating factors for the name change was that the legislation should regulate a much broader sector of social service professions, and also bring on board professions that were growing but did not have statutory conditions. He enquired to what extent there was progress in bringing on board the development workers, stating that when this was originally conceptualised it was to be an addition to the range of social service professions.

Ms Setlalentoa responded to the question of specialisation. A social worker who qualified from a university would be a generalist. All were social workers first. The specialisation would improve a particular section, but that person would still be a generalist. The basic degree was still a general degree and could only say specialist after a Masters degree.

Ms Kela added to the issues addressed. One of the reasons that social workers were leaving the profession was that they did not wish to do the same thing every day from qualifying until retirement. When reviewing the salaries and status of social workers, DSD also looked at the career path. Previously a social worker would stick to the same matters, only becoming promoted from time to time, on fairly minimal salary increases. There was no defined career path. However, specialisation was one way to address the problems. As indicated, a trained social worker would start as a generalist being able to cope with all issues, but then there was in addition a need for a core of people that could sense the special needs requiring advanced intervention. It was quite difficult to expect social workers to be generalists and to manage all areas. DSD was working more around social workers who had already been in the service for a number of years, and had acquired sufficient information to identify areas they could specialise in.

She used an example of a clinical social worker, who could still choose to specialise in general social work. That would also recognise people who had been doing the work for twenty years and such people could also  guide the new professionals into the field, give them training and information, guidance and support, and mentor them in all areas. It was not intended that specialisation would take people away from the service. They would, as far as possible, be used to render specialised service as much as possible, and could, for instance, choose to specialise to work with people with substance abuse problems, or people with disabilities, rather than necessarily referring the work out to NGOs.

Ms Setlalentoa responded to the question on community development, which referred to the White Paper addressing the needs. There would be different professional groups and community development and Council had been attending to this, though they were not yet organised as a profession but they had been making presentations when opportunity arose to encourage community development to come together. The challenge was the training was not the same. People trained for two weeks, for six months, or a year. All those things had to be considered because the Council would look at the different criteria to register a professional board. It should be nationally organised and conform to certain criteria to register a professional board. Community development was still faced with the challenge to look at all those issues that would help them establish a professional board. She thought research would also highlight these issues in terms of what was a profession and what were the qualifications to be done and to be considered, and again SAQA was guiding the department. Community development was identified and council had made contact where possible with community development, but it had not been possible for them to come together.

Adv Masutha was pleased to note progress in reviewing the Social Services Professions Act, something that had been outstanding for quite some time. He thought that in the context of the planning exercise it would be useful to get a proper briefing from the DSD, who seemed to be working piecemeal. He pointed out that the Committee should be among the first to know of developments and the Committee would like to interact with the processes early on rather than having them presented during public hearings as a fait accompli.
Mr B Solo (ANC) agreed that the Committee should be taking a much firmer stance on issues of unemployment and skills. There was a lack of relevant tools and human resource in this field, and given the challenges this was very critical and must be addressed. There must be a clear campaign from the administration, the institutions and the politicians to aggressively explain the need to have social workers. He concurred with Adv Masutha that children at high school level must be motivated.

The Chairperson agreed. She hoped the Department was listening to these concerns. 

Ms Gumede went back to the issue of trainers, noting that there was a shortage of trainers, and asked the requirements. She also asked why most of the social workers seemed to be women.

Ms Setlalentoa responded to the issue about the male members. The Department was gender sensitive and did have male members. One of them was supposed to had come today but unfortunately didn’t make it.

Mr Waters referred to the numbers of social workers again, and asked if there was a breakdown figure available for how many of the social workers were with NGOs and government, as opposed to the private sector.

Ms Setlalentoa said that the Chairperson had asked her to provide details even though the statistics for social workers were quite outdated at this time. In terms of the number of social workers in NGOs against  the number of social workers in government, DSD was trying to get full details, and the last statistics dated back to 2003. She would try to get the latest figures and send them on. 

Ms Setlalentoa made a plea to the portfolio committee to help with the issue of recruiting social workers. She agreed that the advertisements pushing maths and science were important, but there was a perception being created that these subjects were superior. Every scholar needed help to develop, and social service professions desperately needed recruits as well. DSD was working to put the message across, in such a way that social services were needed not by the Department, but by the whole country. They were also working to reverse the perception that a person doing a social science degree was not very clever. Some children even were dropping out of school altogether because they were not talented in the sciences and were disillusioned about the arts and social science subjects. She stressed that a person specialising in maths would doubtless not want to teach a Grade 1, but this did not mean that the Grade 1 teacher was not desperately needed, and this was a problem about the way in which education was being presented.

Ms Smith responded to the question on service providers, stating that this was a joint venture, and the Council required that there must be a social worker allied to the service provider. However,  HWSETA had their own set of criteria, such as there must be a classroom for training and HR policies must be in place. She could make details available to members.

Briefing on Substance Abuse by Dr Keith Kirimi
Dr Keith Kirimi , Principal Specialist Psychiatrist for the Kimberley Hospital Complex, noted that he was a He medical doctor specialising in Psychiatry, with a special interest in child and adolescent mental health. He practiced that in the context of substance abuse.

Dr Kirimi focused on the treatment of substance abuse treatment, in particular in relation to the importance of the contribution of social workers in the treatment of patients with substance abuse dependencies. He said that he had also consulted with Professor Charles Perry, who was the Chairperson of an organisation monitoring the substance abuse explosion in South Africa. Social workers were currently the backbone of the drug treatment system in South Africa, although other professionals and non-professionals also made contributions. He thought that was appropriate, but urged that the Department of Health should also be involved in terms of detoxification and other matters at the primary health care level.

Dr Kirimi urged that there was a need to upskill social workers and move towards instituting a further qualification of Certified Addiction Counsellors, similar to the system in America. Anyone could apply for the training certification, but it was mostly social workers who did so. Social workers had the key role in seeing that the new national norms and standards for inpatient and outpatient treatment were adhered to. None of this would be possible if social workers in the private sector were not paid properly.

Dr Kirimi gave two case studies where the patients were extremely ill but did not qualify to be in hospitals or health facilities, yet needed care, and that was where the services of the social workers were so important.
He said that the initial stages of the treatment should continue in the primary health care clinics, but when the patients moved out of there, social workers needed to be involved at every stage over the whole process of helping them overcome the addiction.

Dr Kirimi said that substance abuse issues followed a lonely road with lots of questions. He had come up with ideas, but was frustrated by the growing shortage of social workers.

The Chairperson thanked Dr Kirimi and agreed that this was a challenge to the Department and to the country as a whole.

Mr Solo noted the critical role that should be played by social workers, but again expressed his concern about the low numbers of social workers. He felt that there might need to be workshops engage on these matters. He asked Dr Kirimi to what extent he was interacting with the Aids Council and to what extent he was interacting with other institutions and with DSD to channel his ideas.

Dr Kirimi responded that there was interaction from a clinical point of view in the province, as well as interaction with the Department of Health around the HIV/Aids policy development.. In terms of DSD in the Northern Cape there was quite a bit of interaction, since the institutions tried to plan their services together, particularly those services around substance abuse delivery and child and adolescent abuse, because they realised the number of social workers in the Department of Health was very limited, and it was hoped that more might be supported through Department of Social Services. There was also interaction in developing the Child and Adolescent policy, and this would increase in future. Substance abuse and interaction with DSD would also apply.

Mr Solo asked how large the Kimberley unit was. He also asked whether there were any future plans to extend his work out of the hospital, and noted that the whole question of mobilising communities and getting community workers remained a major challenge. He noted that the Northern Cape was the only province that institutionalised and had specialised treatment in hospitals. This was very important and should be extended to other provinces. He asked whether the DSD could perhaps look into that kind of programme. Without changing the norms and values of society, and without interaction with the Department of Education, there was a problem in dealing with children. He pondered whether the children should not be measured in terms of their school attendance. He asked what other plans and proposals did the department had in terms of an awareness campaign involving the community workers in developing awareness in the community..

Dr Kirimi responded that the service developed in the Northern Cape was a revitalisation programme. The hospital was a model, based on a business plan, and a strategy that tried to start providing a comprehensive service when the new hospital came on stream.  The Department of Health had identified certain issues when starting the revitalisation programme. They intended to give backing to a proper scientific assessment of how to deliver a good service. They identified specifically that substance abuse was an important service. Previously Department of Health had been delivering substance abuse rehabilitation at Fort England Hospital, and suggested that the twenty-bed unit for rehabilitation was a good move. Rehabilitation programmes on the outside were a function of Social Services. It was the hospital’s function to look after substance abuse in the context of mental illness.

Dr Kirimi also said that in the past there was not a Child and Mental Health Service Unit, but this was now provided after a policy had been put together, and the Department was in the process of doing all the necessary stakeholder interaction to roll out services to the rest of the provinces. Even if the rehabilitation unit were to be moved from the hospital, or made a function of Social Development, it was necessary to continue the interaction and obtain input from all, particularly in under-serviced areas.

Ms Kela noted that she appreciated Dr Kirimi’s presentation highlighting relationships between Social Development and Health in the province. All the questions were quite relevant. She noted that the DSD
 was working on a piece of legislation that would assist in moving in the right direction and acquiring resources to take services further. Northern Cape had the highest rate of foetal alcohol syndrome in the country, and also there was a problem in getting social workers to work in the rural provinces. The Department in the Northern Cape was interacting with UNISA to establish a satellite institution for the training of social workers in the Northern Cape.

She noted that the Northern Cape did not have a State rehabilitation centre and this was a problem. Perhaps there could be interaction between the Departments of Health and Social Development to use the facilities that were available for both in-patient and out patient treatment programmes. DSD was also looking at a campaign to inform people about the dangers of substance abuse. This was already legislated for and would be implemented when adequate resources were available..

Mr Solo requested a monthly report for the next six months to detail the progress in the efforts to ensure the establishment of the facility. He asked respectfully whether he could run the project from the Committee’s side to ensure that communication was ongoing, and he would give feedback to the Committee and look into the whole question of more resources.

The Chairperson agreed that this matter would be fully discussed outside this meeting.

Ms Kela indicated that the Province had budgeted for additional funding, which had been allocated by Treasury, in the next financial year for the erection of a rehabilitation centre in the Northern Cape. There were also other resources that could be utilised.

 The meeting was adjourned.


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