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Western Cape grapples with severe shortage of social workers amidst rising demand

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By Ragheema Mclean

The Western Cape Department of Social Development is grappling with a severe shortage of social workers, posing a significant challenge to the province.

Concerns have been raised about the overwhelming workload currently managed by social workers in the province.

Speaking on VOC’s PM Drive show, founder of Philisa Abafazi Bethu (women and family centre) Lucinda Evans, expressed frustration with the shortage.

“I cannot comprehend why there is a shortage of social workers when I recently advertised a social worker position at my organization in Steenberg and received over 50 applications from qualified social workers who have been unemployed for more than three years.”

“It’s a violation of human rights. The community feels it, the children, and the foster parents feel it – the services that are required are only 70% available,” said Evans.

She also stressed the necessity of community action, saying, “The community must begin to demand ministerial inquiries for non-service delivery. There are exceptional social workers who are overworked and burnt out. We need to start holding those in higher positions more accountable.”

In response, the department acknowledged, “The Department is currently recruiting more social auxiliary workers to supplement our social worker capacity, and we are reviewing the geographic distribution of social workers so that we can balance caseloads as far as possible. The provinces, together with national DSD, are also trying to obtain additional funding for social workers from National Treasury.”

The department says it currently employs 745 social workers, 272 social auxiliary workers, and over 700 social work professionals at various levels, including social work supervisors and child and youth care workers.

Additionally, the department said it funds and subsidizes over 1,200 social service professionals at Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) and over 700 child and youth care workers at NPOs across the Western Cape.

To alleviate the burden of heavy caseloads, the Department is reevaluating its operational structure, with a specific focus on addressing staffing issues.

VOC News

Photo: Pexels

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