SOCIAL Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said her department needed to employ nearly 15 000 more social workers to provide a basket of services across the life stages of beneficiaries supported by the department’s programmes.
Zulu revealed this when she was responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Gizella Opperman, who noted that the department had only 17000 social workers and more were needed to implement the Children’s Act.
Opperman asked the total number of social workers needed to implement all other departmental programmes such as the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act and the older persons programme.
In her written response, Zulu said the need for social service professionals was identified in the National Development Plan (NDP) and other key policy documents.
“According to the NDP, the ranks of social services professionals should be boosted to 55 000 to meet the demand for appropriate basic social welfare services.
“This is because social welfare services are becoming more development-oriented, focusing on serving vulnerable people in families and in communities,” she said.
Zulu also said the social workers were located across provinces and district offices to render an integrated basket of services across the life stages of beneficiaries, which included psycho-social care and support, statutory and protection, re-integration and aftercare services.
“Currently we have 17503 social service professionals who render a range of services.”
Zulu said the department would require a total of 14 666 social workers and social auxiliary workers to perform the integrated basket of services.
Her response showed that a total of 10657 social workers and 4009 social auxiliary workers (were needed).
In terms of implementation of the Children’s Act, the department required to employ at least 6575 social workers and 3113 social auxiliary social workers.
The remainder of social services professionals will provide services for the implementation of the Older Persons Act, prevention and treatment of substance abuse, Probation Services Act, Victim Empowerment Act, and prevention, care and support for HIV-Aids.
The projected number of the required social services professionals comes at a time the department has not allocated funding for aspirant social workers in the 2022-23 financial year.
The department faces budget cuts that hamper the financing of its social worker programme and the absorbing of thousands of graduates it funded over the years.
In April, the department told the select committee on health and social services that it had partnered with other departments such as the SAPS, Department of Education, Department of Correctional Services and Home Affairs, to lobby the National Treasury to make an allocation for the employment of social workers.
Khumbula Ndaba, acting deputy director-general for strategy and organisational transformation, said the joint bid made to the National Treasury would address the issue of employment of social workers.
“We will table this bid before the National Treasury beginning June. We covered half the departments and the rest will be covered before the end of the financial year,” Ndaba said at the time.
He also said his department was urging others and the provinces to continue with the employment of contract social workers.
“They will do so within what is available in their budget while we are making all of these efforts. Some are responding positively. This is not a panacea to the problems as we look at long-term solutions,” Ndaba said.