Social Workers call for regulation

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Leading practitioners of social work in Sierra Leone have called for regulation as their ranks gradually swells, amidst a rise in interest in the profession.The calls were made on Saturday as the country rounded up celebrations of the Social Work Month. The month of March is designated, ‘Social Work month’ and around the world practitioners celebrate it with the aim of educating the rest of the public about the invaluable contributions they provide to society.
Sierra Leone, prior to its eleven years (1991 to 2002) civil war, had some level of social work practiced, even though it wasn’t well established. The only training institution at the time was vandalized during the civil war, forcing it to shut down.
In the last 15 years, after the end of the war, with recurrence of natural and man-made disasters, which have worsened the living condition for many citizens, interest have grown for the profession
due to the increased need for their services.
One organization which has led the way in the promotion of the profession is Social Workers Sierra Leone, a group of volunteer social workers, which organized Saturday`s event.
Various speakers, from volunteers to academia to employing agencies, spoke on the importance of the role of social workers. David Lamin, a social worker of 30 years’ experience, a Child Protection Officer at Unicef Sierra Leone, said while there was the need for social work services, it was also important to ensure that practitioners follow the rules governing the profession, hence the need for regulation.
Mr Lamin also called for the harmonization of the social work education curriculum, noting the need to align it with international best practices.
He also said that after qualification, there was the need for social workers to be licensed to practice it. He lamented that these days many people were opting to study social work with the goal of getting jobs with NGOs and the associated remuneration and privileges.
“The most important challenge for social work is the need to regulate it,” he told the audience at the event held in the conference hall of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children`s Affairs in
Freetown. Saturday’s program began with a street procession from Freetown`s iconic Cotton Tree at the entrance of State House to the Ministry`s office situated at New England in the west end of the city. The audience comprised members of SWSL and social work students from its five partner learning institutions.
It was the first of three major programs lined up for the whole month’s celebration, which is championed by the International Federation of Social Workers. This year’s celebration marks the fourth time the month is being commemorated in Sierra Leone. And SWSL was the first to celebrate the month in the country.
This year’s global theme for the month-long celebration is: ‘Promoting the importance of human relationships.’ But SWSL have adopted the American theme, which is: ‘Elevate Social Work.’
The organization has in the course of the month-long celebration held outreach psychosocial sessions on emotional wellbeing and engaged in several media sensitization talks.
Social work practitioners say for the profession to make greater impact, it partly depends on the level of awareness in the public. But this, they say, also means the profession needs to be practiced in a
professionally regulated environment.
Presently there is no national policy on social work in the country where social work services from the government itself are hardly in existence.. The hugely under-funded Ministry of Social Welfare depends almost entirely on local humanitarian organizations in providing temporary protection and psychosocial therapy to people in distress situations who need of social work services.
There are about six learning institutions currently providing courses in social work in the country, notably the Milton Margai College of Education, Science and Technology, which provides it at diploma level and it’s the first to introduce social work courses in the country, and Njala University and Fourah Bay College, which provide courses at Bachelors Degree level. Between them, at least 300 people graduates yearly with a social work certificate from these institutions.
In his line of work, Mr Lamin deals with these learning institutions. He is also involved with ongoing efforts to revise the social work education curriculum, which he says is much needed to harmonize the practice.
“Social work is the fastest growing course at FBC,” he noted, citing a report by the administration of the University of Sierra Leone constituent college. Dr Abess Gassam, Principal Lecturer at the Milton College of Education, Science and Technology, emphasized on the need for training for social workers.
He said with the country struggling to cope with endless social problems that include school dropouts, sexual violence, teenage pregnancy and drug abuse, the role of social workers was very paramount. “With adequate training in social work, we will be able to sensitize the public about these problems,” he said.

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