’We need more social workers in the field’

Candice Warner, an independent social worker, and child and family therapist said the challenges associated with Covid-19 had highlighted the need for more social workers in the field.

World Social Work Day, marked annually on March 15, highlights the achievements of social workers, raises awareness about of social services and puts the spotlight on social justice and human rights.

In the run-up to this awareness day which will be commemorated next Tuesday, Plainsman spoke to social workers about the work they do and the challenges they face.

This year the national theme is The Time is Right for Social Work under the National Association of Social Work (NASW).

Form safe connections

Candice Warner, an independent social worker, and child and family therapist said the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated challenges, had highlighted the need for more social workers in the field.

Social work and related social development services are declared a scarce skill in South Africa and with the existing pool of qualified professionals extremely limited, she said, there is an increasing demand from government and non-governmental sectors for social work and social development graduates.

Challenges relate to social workers not having adequate and sufficient resources to fulfil the mandate laid out for them, said Ms Warner.

“Within my capacity as a therapist, Covid-19 caused me to move and think out of the box, and that’s when my practice began exploring the world of virtual therapy and services. This area of my work has only grown and made it much easier for clients to access services whilst in the comfort of their own space,” she said.

All that’s needed is to ensure that people still find ways to ‘connect’, she added.

“We need to stay connected to each other as humans, because it’s through that human connection and safety that we begin to heal and grow.

“I believe that being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives and this is what my team and I aim to achieve,” said Ms Warner.

Help and empower

Clyde Schroeder, a social worker at Ramot Treatment Centre – a holistic alcohol, pill and drug addiction treatment facility – said as social workers they had the privilege of helping and empowering clients.

Clyde Schroeder, a social worker at Ramot Treatment Centre – a holistic alcohol, pill and drug addiction treatment facility – said as social workers they had the privilege to not only help individuals but empower them in the process. “As agents of change, we bring hope to our communities,” he said.

He said the theme for this year perfectly encapsulates the mission statement of social work professionals across the globe, as well as the need for a developmental approach in the current state.

“Being based at a rehabilitation facility, I have witnessed the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic amongst our clients such as job loss, mental health challenges, hopelessness, and an increase in drug and alcohol use.

“The time is right for social workers to rise up and facilitate growth within these areas. Let’s continue bringing hope to the lives of our people. Passion fuels purpose,” said Mr Schroeder.

Set healthy boundaries

Actress Jawaahier Petersen, a former social worker by profession,, said it was important foc social workers to set healthy boundaries.

Former social worker Jawaahier Petersen, who now works as an actress, said it was important for social workers to set healthy boundaries.

The challenge in her profession was carrying the emotional load of clients but also being able to provide a safe space for them to offload.

“I found myself awake at night thinking about my clients or going into the office earlier to do everything I can. As a social worker you do everything you can to help the next person,” she said.

“This is such an overlooked profession. At times we don’t get the respect we deserve. The work that we do often enhances other professions and skill sets needed in spaces. We are beacons of hope, carriers of the torch, laying the foundation. The ones in the trenches are often overlooked,” she said.

“I salute every social worker in this profession, to young people who feel they have the capacity to do this work, you can. We need more social workers out in the field, as it is not easy at times. We need you,” said Ms Petersen.

Ms Petersen said the profession had taught her basic human interaction, to have healthy and transparent communication with others, and being able to form connections with people.

Add yourself to your to-do list

A Western Cape Education Department school social worker, Elvera Swartz, said social workers can learn from each other.

A Western Cape Education Department school social worker, Elvera Swartz, said social workers can learn from each other.

“It is needed for us to create new global values, policies and practice and share our best practices with each other through various networks and partnerships. This is needed as social workers make valuable contributions to the well-being of others in the communities that we serve,” she said.

As social workers, they cannot pour from an empty cup, said Ms Swartz.

“Make sure to add yourself on your to-do list. Self-care is important, you have to do some activities on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our mental health and well-being,” she said.

Self-care is a vital component of a career in a helping profession, said Ms Swartz, adding that social workers who find ways to look after their own health and well-being may be less susceptible to stress and burnout and better.