2 March 2007
South Africa has set up a bursary scheme for social workers in order to attract more young people to the profession.
During his Budget speech in Cape Town last week, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said R365-million had been allocated to the bursary scheme to help keep social workers in their profession.
“The establishment of the scheme will augment measures already taken in 2005 to increase the salaries of social workers,” Manuel told Parliament. “The initiative aims to entice prospective social workers and revive interest in a profession for the well-being of our communities and the development of a more caring society.”
During a conference hosted by the Department of Social Development last year, Deputy Minister Jean Benjamin expressed concern over the shortage of social workers in South Africa, saying this had the potential to threaten livelihoods.
“South Africa requires about 16 000 social workers over the next three years in an effort to ensure that the country provides services mostly needed by beneficiaries in terms of the Children’s Bill,” Benjamin said.
However, the country’s universities were only producing about 300 social workers a year.
Benjamin attributed the scarcity of social workers and the difficulty in recruiting those already qualified to the availability of more lucrative offers in other sectors in the country as well as abroad.
“Our inability to retain social workers in South Africa is further exacerbated by poor working conditions and the fact that social workers are multi-skilled and therefore are easily absorbed in other fields,” she said.
In order to improve the image of the profession, Benjamin suggested that an extensive marketing and communication drive should be launched to explain how it operated.