Family violence and drug and alcohol abuse were likely to increase as the effects of the global financial crisis took hold in South Africa, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said.
"Without any doubt, this crisis is likely to compound the current challenges confronting the social development sector and increase the demand for social services," Skweyiya said at the launch of the Recruitment and Retention Strategy for Social Workers in Vosloorus on
the East Rand.
He said serious challenges were likely to arise for the social work profession as more people lost their jobs in the crisis.
"The increasing levels of family dysfunction, violence against women and children and substance and alcohol abuse pose serious challenges to the profession.
"All these require innovative and responsive social work interventions and the transformation of the social work training and practice."
Not enough professionals
South Africa faced an acute shortage of social service professionals which was hindering the country's ability to meet the increasing demand for developmental social services, he said.
"Over the past years we have lost quite a number of social work professionals to overseas countries and other sectors due to highly competitive salary packages and better working conditions. Recognising the central role of the profession in the attainment of national priorities such as poverty alleviation, youth development, social crime prevention and social cohesion, government has declared
social work as a scarce skill profession."
Skweyiya said the lack of skills was one of the reasons why his department had launched the Recruitment and Retention Strategy, a project aimed at recruiting student social workers and improving the working conditions and remuneration of those in the profession.
The department has allocated R105 million to the social work bursary scheme in the current financial year. This amount would be increased to R210 million in 2010. Some 3 529 students are currently on the
departmental scholarship programme.
"Although our state-subsidised universities and institutions of higher learning continue to produce an excellent quality of social workers and social service professionals, we have not been able to produce these professionals at the rate and pace of demands that match
the urgent needs of our communities," Skweyiya said. – (Sapa, March 2009)
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