Fight crime, celebrate the international Day of Social Work

Statistics, the media and our daily experiences paint a disturbing picture of increasing criminality, high levels of violence and unemployment. These trends affect the most vulnerable in our communities, namely the children, women and elderly, especially in the economically deprived areas. South Africa is in dire need of social workers and other social services professionals to deal with these challenges.

The country approaches the international Day of Social Work today (18 March 2014) with 9 000 social workers serving a population of 50 million. There’s a need for 60 000 and NGO’s rendering social services have been appealing to the private sector to fund training programmes to close the gap.

The appeal coincides with recent remarks by Gareth Newham, head of the Institute for Security Studies, that South Africa needs more social workers and fewer police officers. He said that the country has been unable to reduce violent crime despite hiring more than 70 000 additional police officers during the past ten years.

The director for social services at Badisa, Ronelle van Zyl points out that at least 16 5000 social workers are needed for services to children only. As one of the designated child protection organisations in the Western Cape, Badisa deals with about 50 000 children per year. Its 130 social workers assist children by finding and supervising foster care, support them during children’s court enquiries, place them in child and youth care centres and help to reunite families.

Types of social problems include parents with insufficient parenting skills, children who present challenging behaviour, neglected and abused children, sexually molested children and abandoned children. These cases total around 35 000 per year. In addition, social workers provide prevention and early intervention services for a wide range of other social problems. The organisation touches the lives of more than 700 000 people in Cape Metropole and rural communities.

She relates the case of a young girl as illustration of the complicated type of work that Badisa’s social workers and its corps of volunteers have to deal with on a daily basis.

The girl was removed from her parental home where alcoholism, family violence and possible molestation by her father’s friends put her at risk. In her foster home she displayed particular talent as an actress, performing at the Artscape theatre. However as she grew up she displayed problem behaviour and wanted to leave her foster home. The social worker gave her the necessary support, introducing her to the Badisa programme. Since then she has been able to come to terms with her emotions and has taken responsibility for her own life, She stayed with her foster parents, has passed matric and found a job. Through Badisa’s continued effort the girl’s employer has taken note of her talent and agreed to support her financially so that she can achieve tertiary education. Another young person’s dream is being fulfilled.

Annemarie Bezuidenhout, head of marketing and fundraising at Badisa thanks donors and assures them that their funds are making a direct impact in the lives of people.

The 2011 National Development Plan’s vision for 2030 mentions that “the state relies heavily on non-government welfare organisations to provide professional social services. However, the funding of these organisations has declined steadily since 1994, reducing the range and compromising the quality of services at the same time as demand for such services has increased.” It also notes that, “funding for services subsidies provided by provincial departments for not-for-profit organisations do not cover the full cost or scope of the services.”

This is why Badisa is making its appeal to the corporate market to invest in social services and the bettering of our nation. “By investing in social work the private sector will make a significant contribution in timely intervention when young lives start to fall apart. That’s the best way of healing an ailing nation,” concludes Bezuidenhout.

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