Opening Address by Minister of Social Dlamini, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, during a Consultative Session with Social Work Veterans, at Emperor’s Palace
24 Nov 2011
Director-General for Social Development, Mr Vusi Madonsela,
Head of Provincial Department of Social Development present,
Dr Maria Mabetoa, DDG for Welfare Services,
Chairperson of the Task Team, Ms Ria Phiyega,
Dignitaries and representatives from Institutions of Higher Learning,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to address all of you at this meeting which is meant to establish Veteran Social Services Workers Forum.
Last year on the 14th of December we established the Social Work Veterans Task Team which was tasked with developing a framework for partnership between the Department of Social Development and retired social workers. The motivation for such a partnership was to use the skills and wisdom of retired social workers to improve the quality of social services delivery.
While some retired social workers have indeed been actively involved in on-going work in the sector, their efforts were hampered due to the lack of a nationally co-ordinated and coherent strategy to engage their services.
The task team has therefore made provisions for the establishment of a platform to make this partnership effective. I therefore, commend the hard work of the Chairperson and members of the task team for the work they have done.
The establishment of this Social Workers Veterans forum will certainly enhance the integrity, image and dignity of social workers. Using the skills of retired professionals is not new, as other departments such as Health, Public Works, Justice and Constitutional Development and Defence have embarked on a similar initiative to bridge gaps in their human resources.
We also have faith that the relationship between the Department of Social Development and this forum will improve service delivery within the social sector through providing much needed supervision and mentoring both the new graduates as well as lesser experienced social workers.
Given the important and often exhausting work done by social services professionals, we need to develop mechanisms that will help them reflect on their work. This reflection can also assist in enhancing the knowledge base in the social services professions through providing data for the books and papers on social work in contemporary South Africa.
The social work profession is a noble profession and we all have a responsibility to ensure that we work towards improving the manner in which we interact with communities. An issue that caused me immense concern over the last week or so, relates to the children who died of hunger and neglect in the North-West Province. The remarks of the social worker as reported in the media gave the impression that the social worker was blaming the victims of structural poverty and inequality for the problems they experience. It is part of an attitude that discourages people from seeking much needed assistance from ourselves and other care workers as they often feel judged and discriminated against.
We need to reastablish a relation of trust and respect with the communities we work with guided by professionalism, empathy and a sense that we have a mission to assist those neglected by the markets or face social and economic hardship. I hope that this partnership will be instrumental in building a workforce that will work and serve with care to build the dignity of the people who need our expertise.
Ladies and gentlemen
To achieve these objectives, we are privileged to have amongst us representatives from Institutions of Higher Learning who are responsible for the training of social workers as well as other social service professionals. As part of our broader strategy, we invited those entrusted with the role of training our social workers as we rely on their expertise to find creative solutions in activities of this nature.
We are confident that the forum of Veteran Social Workers will assist our graduates and empower them to become organic intellectuals who always work hard to make a difference and positive contribution in our communities and the social sector at large.
It is also befitting to express gratitude to all retired social service professionals who have dedicated their time, efforts and resources to uplift the social work profession.
In conclusion, I call upon representatives from all structures within the social sector to join hands and work together with the Department of Social Development and the Veteran Social Services Workers Forum in a quest to build better communities.
As I mentioned during the Social Workers conference in September this year, the success of the Veteran Social Workers forum will also depend largely on the good working relations between Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI) and National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
These are the institutions entrusted with ushering change in our society through the task of training and producing social work professionals.
I also thank our employees in the Department of Social Development, especially the Directorate of Social Service Provider Management and Support who worked tirelessly in making this event a success.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
24 Nov 2011
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