Social Work: the profession where action meets compassion
March is World Social Work Month and during this time the spotlight is not only on the profession, but also on the important contributions these brave professionals make to society.
The awareness campaign reached a highpoint on 20 March 2018 when professional social workers celebrated Social Work Day. According to Prof Ansie Fouché and Dr Elmien Truter, both social work lecturers from the North-West University’s (NWU’s) Faculty of Health Sciences on its campus in Vanderbijlpark, it is important to celebrate professional social workers by recognising and appreciating the harsh reality which they are exposed to on a daily basis, as well as the pressure of high expectations they have to cope with.
These two experts – who are also productive researchers in the Optentia research focus area – explains the plight of social workers within the South African context:
When things are at their most challenging it is typically a social worker who is requested to step in and bring order to the chaos. Social workers in South Africa are mandated by legislation to protect vulnerable children, families and communities and are employed in various practice settings such as child and family care, elderly care, substance abuse, and correctional services, among others. Given the high prevalence of social problems in South Africa it is undisputed that social workers are important action systems in navigating positive change.
The aim of the social work profession is to support individuals, families and communities by improving their social functioning, thus their capacity to live their life in an adaptive and healthy way. By doing so, social workers are often placed at risk for depression, burnout, and exceptionally high stress levels, due to adverse working conditions that include working with people who are often violent, and working in unfavourable working contexts most often characterised by unsupportive management, meagre salaries, a dire shortage in resources, facing legal professionals whilst executing their duties and not enjoying respect from most people in society.
More about the 2018 World Social Work Month
During World Social Work Month professional social workers are saluted for their dedication, passion and determination to help protect and safeguard South Africa’s vulnerable children, families and older persons under difficult and challenging circumstances.
According to the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) the discipline of social work promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Furthermore the principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.
In light of this, social workers are saluted for speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves and for bringing hope to dire situations.