BRIEFING REPORT MADE BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL FOR SOCIAL SERVICE PROFESSIONS (SACSSP) TO THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Submission made by the SA Council for Social Service Professions at the 5th briefing session of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development, held at Parliament on 9 March 2005.

1. INTRODUCTION

This presentation is submitted by the South African Council for Social Service Professions at a briefing meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Councilís budgeted programmes and some of its activities for the 2005/06 financial year. In briefing the Portfolio Committee the following matters are being dealt with:

1.1 A brief background of the Council.

1.2 Councilís role and objectives.

1.3 Establishing of the first social service professional boards.

1.4 Regular funding of the Council.

1.5 Funding received from the Department of Social Development.

1.6 Salaries and service conditions of social service personnel.

1.7 Social workers leaving for abroad.

1.8 1St National Conference for social service personnel.

1.9 Education and training.

 

2 BRIEF BACKGROUND OF THE COUNCIL

The SA Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP), the statutory regulatory body for the social service professions in South Africa, was established and functions in terms of the Social Service Professions Act, 1978 (Act 110 of 1978) as amended. The present SACSSP evolved from the erstwhile SA Council for Social and Associated Work (established in 1980), the SA Council for Social Work and the SA Interim Council for Social Work. Following drastic amendments to the Act in 1989 and 1999 the Act now inter alia makes provision for the establishment of professional boards for the various social service professions, under the auspices of the Council. One of the present priorities of the Council is to attend to the drafting of a new act to replace the Social Service Professions Act, 1978 (Act 110 of 1978).

The First SACSSP completed its five year term of office during 2004. This Council laid the foundation for the present new Council and started with the establishment of the professional boards for the individual social service professions. Continuing this process is another priority of the new Council.

3. COUNCILíS ROLE AND OBJECTIVES

In terms of the Act the Councilís comprehensive role can be summarised as follows:

With the establishment of the professional boards a reality, a specific point of focus of the organisation at present is the clarification of the role differentiation between the Council and the professional boards. Whereas the Council will have an overarching coordinating role regarding the professions and would attend to the making of the organisationís general policies, the professional boards would deal with all matters pertaining to the profession(s) under the ambit of the board concerned.

4. ESTABLISHMENT OF FIRST SOCIAL SERVICE PROFESSIONAL BOARDS

The Council is the umbrella body and juristic person, with the various professional boards its delegates, each being responsible for the profession(s) under its ambit. History was recently made with the establishment of the first two such professional boards, namely the Professional board for Social Work and the Professional Board for Child and Youth Care. The Professional Board for Probation Services will be the next board to be established, whilst attention is also being given inter alia to establishing a professional board for community development.

A social service professional board is established by the Minister of Social Development on the recommendation of the Council, in terms of section 14A of the Social Service Professions Act, 1978 (Act 110 of 1978) as amended. The practitioners of the profession concerned should lodge an application for a board to be established to the Council. Council will then investigate the application and if it meets the Councilís criteria, will make the necessary recommendation to the Minister for a board to be established.

In order to establish the professional boards and in order for the boards to function, in recent times the following sets of regulations were drafted with the input from the different constitutions, accepted by the Minister and published in the Government Gazette for implementation:

With the first professional boards now established, the Professional Board for Social Work will take over the functions previously fulfilled by the Council regarding the social work profession and update it in the form of revised regulations to the Act. The other professional boards such as the professional Boards for Child and Youth Care and Probation services will focus on the drafting and implementation of regulations inter alia establishing registers for their practitioners, establishing the criteria for their registration, determining the acts or omissions which shall constitute unprofessional conduct, and formulating the code of ethics to be followed in the practising of the profession concerned.

5. REGULAR FUNDING OF THE COUNCIL

With reference to the funding of the Council, it is emphasised that the Council does not receive any money automatically from the Department of Social Development. The Councilís main source of revenue is the annual and registration fees payable to it by the persons registered with the Council. Therefore, Council is responsible to obtain its own funding to provide in its operational needs.

During the previous five financial years the Councilís annual income from the annual and registration fees payable to it by the persons registering with the Council, amounted to the following:

YEAR

AMOUNT

1999/2000

1 689 289

2000/2001

2 455 575

2001/2002

2 886 905

2002/2003

2 597 748

2003/2004

3 300 810

Any funding received from an outside source, such as the Department of Social Development is not included in the above amounts.

The Councilsí activities are divided into specific programmes each with its own budget, with the budgeted expenditure for each programme being as follows for the financial year 2005/06:

PROGRAMME

AMOUNT

PROFESSIONALISATION

555,500

PUBLIC RELATIONS

411,144

EDUCATION AND TRAINING

322,783

ADMINISTRATION AND REGISTRATION

1,590.947

FINANCE

249,648

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEM

86,300

MANAGEMENT/ADMINISTRATIVE TRAINING

25,000

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

447,187

Total

3,688,510*

* This budget only makes provision for the income generated by the Council from its main source of revenue (the monies payable to Council by the persons registering with it) and excludes any other possible funding, such as funding from the Department.

In terms of Section 13 of the Act a copy of the Councilís audited financial statements is submitted to the Minister every year.

6. FUNDING RECEIVED FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

The establishment of the professional boards is severely taxing Councilís financial resources. Therefore, Council indicated that it is not in a position to finance the establishing of the professional boards for the additional professions, and that the practitioners of such professions should eventually carry the financial costs of their board to function as did the social workers in the case of the old Council.

Therefore applications were lodged during 2003 and 2004, with the Department of Social Development for funding to establish the professional boards other than that of social work, as well as to assist in covering the costs of certain other projects.

Council gratefully acknowledges the following financial contributions which were received from the Department of Social Development on the dates indicated, in terms of memoranda of agreement entered into to utilise the funding for the projects and on the dates as indicated:

PROGRAMME AND DATE

DONOR

PURPOSE

AMOUNT RECEIVED

BALANCE REMAINING

PROFESSIONALISATION

February 2003

December 2003

January 2004

December 2004

DSD

DSD

DSD (Neth)

DSD

Prof boards

Prof boards

PBPS

Prof Boards

500,000

250,000

528,000

155,000

14,981

174,857

437,347

155,000

Subtotal

   

1,433,000

782,185

PUBLIC RELATIONS

December 2003

December 2004

December 2004

DSD

DSD

DSD

Nat conf

Nat conf

Research

350,000

230,000

230,000

130

29,468

230,000

Subtotal*

   

810,000

259,598

EDUCATION & TRAINING

December 2003

January 2004

December 2004

DSD

DSD

DSD

CPD

PBPS SGB

Educ & Dev

150,000

300,000

55,000

74,343

299,603

55,000

Subtotal**

   

505,000

428,946

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

December 2004

 

DSD

 

Prof cond

 

80,000

 

80,000

Subtotal

   

80,000

80,000

Total

   

2,828,000

1,559,729***

* The National Conference generated an income in respect of registration fees to attend the Conference, of which R368,095 are to be utilised for this programme.

** The HSWSETA and SAQA contributed a further R321,501 to this programme.

*** The main reason for this amount not yet being fully utilised is the fact that the duration of some of the projects for which the funding was made available is medium term rather then short term.

The new Council will be attending to its strategic planning for the 2005/06 financial year during the period 16 to 18 March 2004. Once this has been completed and the necessary operational plans drafted, a submission will be made to the Department to receive additional funding for specific projects during the 2005/06 financial year.

7. SALARIES AND SERVICE CONDITIONS OF SOCIAL SERVICE PERSONNEL

Council strongly supports Governmentís emphasis on and all its endeavours to alleviate the problem of poverty and itís accompanying socio-economic problems from which such a large portion of the South African population is suffering. To assist in dealing with the problem one would therefore expect a increased demand for the services of members of the social service professions, such as social workers and the payment of a corresponding remuneration to them.

The following table reflects what could possibly be an increased demand for the services of social workers as is indicated in the increased number of registered social workers during the past thee years:

Year

No of registered

social workers

2003

10 031

2004

11 178

2005

11 245

Unfortunately, the low salaries paid to social workers and the conditions of service in terms of which many of them have to work, have been a serious concern for the sector for many years. Therefore, with extensive input from the different role players comprising the social service professions sector, the Council compiled a Guideline document for the remuneration, service conditions and human resource management in the social service professions in June 2002. The objective of the document was to provide a suitable guideline, which would contribute to the successful addressing of the imbalance, inequity and discrepancies in the remuneration of social service practitioners, as well as the effective utilisation of the sector. This Guideline was made available as widely as possible for general use, and for use by the various stakeholders during salary negotiations. It was also sent to the Portfolio Committee.

In addition to this, a submission titled The remuneration of social service professionals in the Public Service at entry level, was made to the Minister and Department of Public Administration, and a submission titled The remuneration of social service professionals employed by the no-governmental organisations (NGOs), was made to the Minister and Department of Social Development in March 2002. These submissions contained the guideline for minimum remuneration of persons employed in the social service professions and the Ministers were requested to attend to certain discrepancies regarding the remuneration of social service personnel employed in Government departments as well as by NPO/NGOs dependant on Government subsidies.

Following this the Department of Social Development convened a task team in conjunction with representatives from the Department of Public Service and Administration, to deal with the remuneration, grading and job descriptions of social workers employed in the public sector. This lead to certain salary adaptations having been made for social workers employed in the public sector.

On 28 January 2005, the Minister of Labour announced the commencement of an investigation to investigate the rates of remuneration, and conditions of employment with a view to establish a minimum wage and conditions of employment within the welfare sector, in the Government Gazette, in terms of Section 52(3) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, No 75 of 1997.

In addition, the Finance Minister announced in Parliament on 23 February 2005 in his Budget Speech for 2005/06, that the salaries of social workers in the public sector are to be improved. This is what the Task Team, facilitated by the Council, had requested but at the same time it was requested to also increase the salaries of those in the NPO/NGO sector. Therefore, this announcement contributed to further widening the gap between the salaries paid to social workers in the public sector vis-à-vis that paid to social workers in the NPO/NGO sector

This further widening of the gap may well be the final straw for many social workers employed in the NGO/NPO sector. The result will impact severely and disastrously on the social work profession and the NGO/NPOís continued existence as service providers both in the present and the future. It is communities, the poor and the vulnerable that stand to suffer the most.

The situation regarding the remuneration of the social workers in the non-government sector is of great concern and a very real crisis in the sector has been building up over the years. The NGO/NPO sector is a major provider of direct services to people at grassroots level. Social workers employed in this sector undertake community development, poverty alleviation, statutory services in terms of a number of Acts, prevention, continuing care services and early intervention.

Since, and even before the Ministerís announcement, there have been numerous enquiries, appeals, meetings and submissions about this matter. Various groups of social workers have made submissions and recently a mass meeting was held in Gauteng. Although some provinces have increased subsidies somewhat the basic situation in the NPO/NGO sector has remained virtually static.

However, the increased subsidies paid by some provinces to NPO/NGOs caused a new discrepancy as the matter was being dealt with on a provincial level and not on a national level. The problem being that personnel employed by the same NGO but in different provinces, that previously earned the same salary, now earned different salaries.

The Department of Social Development has produced a draft Retention Strategy for Social Workers and it is trusted that once it is accepted it would address the whole sector, including those in the NPO/NGO sector.

The National Coalition for Social Services (NACOSS) is presently conducting research about this matter amongst more than 700 NGOs in the 9 provinces concerning information provided on more than 2 500 social workers and social auxiliary workers.

The results of this research should be of interest to the Portfolio Committee. The research is not completed yet, but some of the preliminary results of this research, applying to all levels of social workers concerning social workers in the NGO sector, indicate the following:

The above results paint a most disturbing and dire picture of social work practitioners employed in the NGO sector that does not bode well for the immediate present and the future in respect of the achievement of social service delivery aims and objectives. It therefore is of imperative importance for government to increase the subsidisation of salaries of social workers in the NPO/NGO sector.

 

8. SOCIAL WORKERS LEAVING FOR ABBROAD

The so-called "brain drain" amongst the professions, of professionals leaving the country to work abroad, also is a concern regarding social workers.

No statistics regarding social workers who immigrated are available. However, the following figures give an indication of how many social workers obtained Certificates of Status from the Council when leaving for abroad (these certificates are required to register as social workers in most foreign countries):

Year

Number of

certificates issued

2000

29

2001

37

2002

34

2003

26

2004

28

Against this background it seems that probably not as many social workers have left the Country as is often thought. However, more social workers have probably left the country without obtaining the Certificates of Status from the Council.

In the absence of specific research, one could only speculate about the reasons for these people leaving. Reasons often put forward as contributing factors are the following:

Another factor that could also play a role is the effect of the "global village" and the fact that many newly qualified young people want to spread their wings and gain some overseas experience, earn some pound or dollars to pay of their study loans, to return after a few years. In such cases the country could benefit from their overseas experience.

9. 1ST NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR SOCIAL SERVICE PROFESSIONS

The first National Conference for the Social Service Professions was held during October 2004. The theme of the conference was Dialogue across disciplines Ė Partnership in development and it was co-hosted by the Council and the Department of Social Development. The Department funded the conference with an amount of R580 000, whilst the rest of the expenses were covered by the conference fees paid by delegates.

Numerous attempts were made to include papers presented by as many different social service practitioners as possible. Nevertheless, most of the papers were submitted by academics and social workers.

The conference was attended by 658 delegates, consisting inter alia of the Deputy Minister for Social Development, Provincial MECs, Heads of Social Welfare Services, representatives from the Office of the Premier, representatives from local training institutions and from Botswana, social service professionals/providers representing the cross spectrum of disciplines within the social service sector, including social workers, Child and youth workers, social auxiliary workers, community development workers, probation officers and community members.

The objectives of the conference were achieved and the conference afforded the Council and the Department of Social Development an opportunity to establish positive working relationships with all social service professionals.

At the end of the conference, the conference issued the following declaration:

DIALOGUE ACROSS DISCIPLINES - FOR PARTNERSHIPS TO ENHANCE A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL AND SUSTAINABLE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

We the 658 delegates consisting of Social Service Professionals/ Providers (hereafter referred to as Social Service Professionals) and community members gathered at the St George Hotel, Pretoria South Africa from the 25-27 October 2004, celebrating 10 years of freedom, the International year of the family and social development month; and noting that this is the first ever national conference of this nature in the history of our country, representing the cross spectrum of disciplines within the social service sector, and acknowledging that this is the beginning of dialogue between partners.

We as partners declare as follows:

    • We commit ourselves to engage with organs of civil society and the Government to -

      • develop and strengthen a vibrant civil society;
      • work together to realize our dream of making South Africa a better place;
      • mobilize for more adequate and equitable resources in the welfare sector to ensure the reduction of poverty, under-development, HIV/AIDS and other social conditions;
      • lobby against those welfare and economic policies and practices that maintain people in marginalized, disempowered, excluded and poor conditions, and
      • act against those policies and practices that disadvantage and compromise the capacity of social service professionals from providing equitable, relevant, appropriate and quality services;

    • We commit ourselves to continued dialogue in the spirit of arriving at common conceptual clarity regarding -

      • the use of key concepts in welfare, such as social development and developmental social welfare, to strengthen the identity of the sector; and
      • a common understanding of the various roles and responsibilities of the different disciplines in the social service sector, including social workers, auxiliary social workers, community development practitioners, probation officers and child and youth care officers.

    • We will continue to advocate for the improvement of the working conditions of social service professionals, including improved salaries and the provision of equal salaries for those in the public and the private welfare sector, in order to retain the scarce skills.

    • We commit ourselves to accelerating the process of transformation of welfare developmental social services in South Africa.

    • We endorse welfare as a fundamental human right, for in the words of Kader Asmal "If the Constitution is the head of a country, Welfare is the heart of a country".

    • We commit to understanding those external factors that impact negatively on the self image and identity of social service professionals and to reclaiming faith, dignity and pride in who we are and what we have to contribute to the overall development of South African societies.

    • We work towards a unified Professional Association.

    • We recommit ourselves to establishing and maintaining an equal and respectful partnership between National, Provincial and Local levels of Government and organs of civil society.

    • We commit ourselves to support the NEPAD process.

An action plan is being compiled to execute the implementation of the Declaration and it is foreseen that a follow-up conference will be held in due course.

10. EDUCATION & TRAINING

With reference to the Councilís objectives in respect of the education and training of social service practitioners, the Council continues to play an important role.

One of the latest developments in this respect is the impending name change of the social work qualification to that of Bachelor in Social Work (BSW) Degree which is to be the same at all universities nationally. All universities will also comply with the exit level outcomes formulated by the Standards Generating Body (SGB) for Social Work.

These outcomes were developed to be in line with the requirements of the needs of the present day South African population and are to be implemented on 1 January 2007.

Council is also to play an active role in quality assuring the contents of the various social service learning programmes. On the lower levels for instance, the quality assurance in the social auxiliary work learner ship as approved by the Department of Labour, will ensure that proper attention could be given to the primary needs of communities as part of the execution of the social work services, with the social auxiliary worker being the assistant to the social worker.

Furthermore, as far as the FET Certificate in Social Auxiliary Work is concerned, it is important to note that the SACSSP facilitated the following developments:

With reference to the profession of Child and Youth Care, probation services and any other profession for which a professional board would be established similar attention would be given to the regulation of matters pertaining to the education and training of the profession concerned.

11. CONCLUSION

The South African Council for Social Service Professions once again sincerely appreciates this opportunity to present the Portfolio Committee with some of the highlights comprising the most contentious issues that the Council presently deals with.