Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Social development hired only 3400 social workers out of 9000 unemployed graduates

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Oct 21, 2020

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Cape Town: The Social Development Department hired only 3 465 social work graduates between the 2014/15 financial year until March this year.

This as the country is saddled with about 9 000 unemployed graduates.

This emerged when the department briefed the social development portfolio on the employment of social work graduates.

Briefing the committee on Wednesday, Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said the Cabinet had affirmed that social workers should be appointed by all departments.

Bogopane-Zulu said the department reduced scholarships and redirected funding in agreement with the National Treasury for the absorption of social work students.

"We also need to acknowledge that social workers graduate every year. We have not done well and absorb them fast enough," she said.

"We are retracing our steps and finding our way," Bogopane-Zulu added.

Acting director-general Linton Mchunu said the department was central to efforts to reduce the levels of social ills and vulnerability.

"We may be seen as very reactive rather than being proactive to addressing social ills. We hire more police when we should be hiring more social workers to address the social ills," Mchunu said.

He echoed Bogopane-Zulu sentiments that it was not the only responsibility of his department to hire social workers but it was also for the government as a whole

Deputy director-general Khumbula Ndaba said social workers were key in the delivery of mandatory welfare services and that the National Development Plan proposed that the sector should employ 55 000 social service professionals by 2030.

Ndaba also said social ills in the country have increased and that they required more social workers.

He said there were about 9 000 unemployed social work graduates.

"The shortage in the number of social work graduates in our employ compromises the provision of social welfare services such as psycho-social support, assessments and debriefing sessions."

Ndaba also said Covid-19 has exposed the need to employ more social workers.

However, he said there was lack of sufficient funding for the employment of social work graduates.

"Our requests to the National Treasury for additional funding have largely been unsuccessful. Current economic conditions compounds the underfunding challenges of the sector.

Ndaba also noted that the focus of other governments in employment of social workers was in line with its core mandate.

"Engagements with sector departments to employ social workers graduates have not yielded the desired outcomes," he said.

"All government departments must employ social service professionals. It is for this reason that we have been engaging departments to ensure they fulfil their obligations," he said.

On their part, Ndaba said his department employed social workers on contract.

"As we did so we want to use every opportunity available to employ social workers," he said.

Ndaba revealed that the department has absorbed 3719 state-sponsored social worker bursary holder graduates to date.

The employment period dates back from the 2014/15 financial year to 2019/2020.

There were presently 9697 filled social worker posts and vacancies stood at 671.

The number of unemployed scholarship graduates stood at 5142 with the highest in the Easter Cape at 1 164, followed by Limpopo with 1 159, KwaZulu-Natal, 1 133, Western Cape, 404, Mpumalanga, 353, Free State with 265, North West, 243, Northern Cape, 50 and Gauteng, 0.

A total of 4 024 students graduated without the assistance of the government.

KwaZulu-Natal led the pack with 1 382, followed by Limpopo, 530, Eastern Cape, 284, Mpumalanga, 90, Gauteng, 30, North West, 18, Free State, 11, Northern Cape, 6, and Western Cape, 0.

There were presently 488 students on government scholarship programmes at different years of completion of studies.

The projected absorption of social workers graduates over the medium term expenditure framework was standing at 779. | Political Bureau

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