A significant reduction in the allocation of funds for salaries and a moratorium on filling posts have been blamed for the 1 279 vacant social worker positions in all nine provinces.
This happens as there were about 9 000 unemployed social worker graduates in the country.
This emerged in a response by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, when she was replying to parliamentary questions from DA MP Bridget Masango.
Masango wrote to Zulu enquiring about the vacant posts for social workers in each province and how long they had been vacant.
She also asked for the reasons the posts were not filled and the number of unemployed social workers in the country.
Zulu put the figure of vacant positions at 1 279.
Gauteng is leading with the highest number of vacant posts at 365, followed by the North West with 178, Northern Cape with 158 and the Eastern Cape 151.
KwaZulu-Natal has 107 vacant posts, the Western Cape 103, Free State 101, Mpumalanga 72 and Limpopo 44.
Zulu’s response showed that the positions were vacant for periods ranging from six months up to eight years.
The Free State has had vacant social worker positions for eight years, the Eastern Cape five years, KwaZulu-Natal four years and the other provinces had vacancies for up to 12 months.
Zulu blamed the vacancies in the Eastern Cape on a moratorium on filling posts in 2019 to 2022 due to significant reduction in compensation of employee budgets.
In other provinces the blame was placed on budget constraints due to significant reduction in compensation of employees over the medium term expenditure framework period.
Zulu also said there were “around 9 000” unemployed social workers in the country.
In a statement, Masango said Zulu should implement urgent measures to fill the vacant posts and address the shortages.
“What is particularly disturbing is the fact that 9 000 social workers remain unemployed, and that this number has remained unchanged since last year when a similar question was asked.
“The tragedy is this vast vacancy rate is to the detriment of millions of vulnerable people that are being deprived of essential services, in turn escalating the social ills brought on by the ANC government’s continued failures,” she said.
Masango also said the government stated last year that 5 000 social workers were needed to implement substance abuse legislation and 3 000 for the Older Person’s Act.
“This tragic state of affairs shows just how little the ANC government cares about the well-being, lives and livelihoods of already vulnerable South Africans,” she added.