Helping Hand celebrates national social worker’s day National social worker’s day in South Africa will be celebrated on 21 February. Once again, it puts the spotlight on the need for, as well as the acute shortage of, social workers in South Africa.

Solidarity Helping Hand is an organisation aiming to alleviate, prevent and help people to break free from poverty. In this process, the role of social services is considered to be invaluable.

Helping Hand holds the view that strong community networks are essential to pursue these goals. In any community where a registered welfare organisation renders services, the social worker is the main source of information to point out the real need in the community. Potential donors interested in making a contribution to assist in preventing, alleviating and breaking free from poverty will be able to address the real need by contacting the social worker in a community.

Since 2003, social work is considered to be a scarce skill in this country.  The new Children’s Act (No. 38 of 2005) came into effect in 2010. For this Act to perform optimally, 60 000 social workers are needed. At the moment, there are about 16 000 registered social workers in South Africa of which only about 12 000 actually work in the profession. These statistics emphasise the challenges faced by this profession.

Yet, despite enormous challenges, there are still social workers who consider social work to be a calling about which they are passionate and in which they find fulfilment. Marieta Kemp, director of the Suid-Afrikaanse Vrouefederasie (SAVF), is hopeful about the continued existence of this profession. According to her, social work is the proof that the impossible can sometimes be achieved. In this profession, success is measured in small building blocks.

If a social worker manages to improve the functioning of just one child or one family in his or her career, success has been achieved. Therefore, it is important to realise that a different measuring instrument is used for this profession. A social worker must be able to recognise and use small, positive building blocks in extremely chaotic circumstances.

A social worker who, despite facing huge challenges, still practices this profession is a person with exceptional qualities. This person would have the ability to convert relationships, usually born out of conflict, into positive alliances working together.

According to Marieta Kemp, the fulfilment associated with social work is immeasurable. In this profession, the social worker has the opportunity to apply all his/her talents and interests to maximum effect. In an office occupied by social workers, an atmosphere of compassion and camaraderie prevail that is found in few other professions.

Over the years, the occupation of a social worker has developed into an actual professional occupation. Social workers receive intensive training over a period of four years and are required to be registered with the South African Council for Social Service Professions if they are employed as social workers. The profession is subject to ethical codes that the social worker has to comply with.

In a country like South Africa where the need is increasing, it has become essential to expand the social work profession. Helping Hand wants to encourage prospective students with a passion for people to obtain a qualification in this exceptional occupation. Isabel Faurie Social worker, Helping Hand 012 644 4390

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