Presentation on theme: "Presentation at the 1st Namibian Social Protection Conference-2015: Towards Comprehensive Social Protection for All. 7-9 July 2015, Windhoek By Professor."— Presentation transcript:
Presentation at the 1st Namibian Social Protection Conference-2015: Towards Comprehensive Social Protection for All. 7-9 July 2015, Windhoek By Professor Edwell Kaseke, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Social work is a profession that is not well understood not only by the general public but by policy-makers as well. In many cases, social workers themselves are not clear about the professional spaces they should occupy.
This lack of clarity on the mandate of social work has now been exacerbated by the fact that professional boundaries in the social field have become blurred and social workers are now sharing their professional space. For many decades, social work has been criticised for addressing symptoms of deep- rooted structural problems instead of the actual problems. Midgley (1981) says this is akin to providing first aid where major surgery is required.
Consequently, many have questioned the relevance of social work in developing countries in general and Africa in particular where the social problems that social workers deal with are symptoms of structural problems such as poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The social work profession has embraced the social development approach to social welfare in order to contribute meaningfully to human well-being based on the understanding that economic growth alone is not sufficient to improve human welfare. Social development calls for an equal emphasis on the social and economic aspects of development.
The shift to social development has necessitated the development of a new definition of social work that sees empowerment, liberation and promotion of human rights as being at the core of social work. The ultimate objective of social work is to improve the quality of life for all and this should be the mandate of social work.
Social protection is one of the strategies for achieving the major objective of social development, namely improving social well- being/standards of living (Midgley, 2014). Poverty is the biggest threat to human security and it undermines human dignity. Social protection is an important instrument for poverty prevention and reduction. Consequently, social workers view their involvement in social protection as a legitimate role and function of social work.
To this end, social work embraces the broader definition of social protection which sees social protection as encompassing social security (both contributory and non- contributory), basic social services, labour market policies and programmes and strengthening livelihoods.
The involvement of social workers in social protection ranges from provision of and facilitating access to social services and benefits, working with groups and communities to strengthen livelihoods, development of social policies, monitoring and evaluation of social policies, advocacy with and on behalf of vulnerable groups and undertaking social research.
Social work roles in social protection can be looked at using Devereux and Sabates- Wheeler’s conceptualization of social protection. Devereux and Sabates-Wheeler identify four types of interventions, namely protective, preventive, promotive and transformative programmes. Social work has a role in each of these programmes
The traditional role of social workers is to administer social assistance programmes designed to alleviate poverty among vulnerable groups. Social workers also intervene to protect children and older persons from abuse and exploitation.
Preventive programmes are meant “to avert deprivation or to mitigate the impact of an adverse shock” (UNICEF, 2008). This is realized through social insurance. The low coverage of social insurance in Africa and the exclusion of persons in atypical forms of employment create space for social workers to use community development intervention method to promote self-organized social security arrangements which can be gradually integrated into the formal security system.
Promotional programmes seek to enhance the earning capacity of the poor and marginalized (UNICEF, 2008) Social workers work with communities to enhance their income-earning capacity through skills training and asset building. The main objective is to create sustainable livelihoods and enhancing the capacity of the poor to manage risks. Increased income earning opportunities enhance capacity to participate in social insurance.
Social workers design and implement programmes meant to enable children from poor families to access education (fee waivers). This is essential for human capital development and for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty,
Transformative programmes are intended to address social injustice and social exclusion. Social workers monitor and review social policies to ensure responsiveness to human needs and to guard against social exclusion. Social workers engage in advocacy with and on behalf of the poor to ensure social justice and the creation of a more inclusive society.
Social workers are increasingly focusing on macro issues that impede the realization of human well-being (poverty, inequality, unemployment). Consequently, social protection has become a legitimate area of practice. However, social protection is not an area that has been given sufficient attention in social work curricula. There is therefore need to address this gap.