The Department of Social Development has accused the Democratic Alliance (DA) of misleading the public by giving false statistics in their media statements and has also urged the party to thoroughly investigate matters before conveying any information to the public. This follows a recent media release in which the party claimed that there were more than 800 unemployed social workers in the province and suggested that the department should absorb all of them.
The statement quoted DA Spokesperson on Social Development Suzan Phala to have said the party was calling for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the departments of Education and Social Development to be signed to absorb more than 800 unemployed social workers across the province.
Phala said answers provided by the Social Development Committee had indicated that the department had managed to absorb only 164 social workers out of 270 for the 2013 academic year. In 2014, the department absorbed only 74 out of 278 and 180 were appointed as Learner Support Agents in the Department of Education.
According to Phala, only 231 social workers who completed their studies in 2016 are expected to go on an internship programme funded by Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA), leaving 870 social workers unemployed. “Furthermore, during the 2016/17 financial year, the department trained more than 338 graduates but still failed to secure job placement for them. During the 2017/18 budget speech, the department pronounced that out of 502 graduated social workers, only 164 would be absorbed, leaving 338 without places. The result is that the department currently faces a huge backlog of 827 unemployed social workers and the DA believes that this is totally unacceptable and that many of these social workers and psychologists must be dispatched to various schools and centres which are experiencing high rates of teenage pregnancy and substance abuse,” Phala. Said.
Social Development Department Spokesperson Adele van der Linde replied by saying the department had trained 991 social workers from 2013 to date and 164 of them have been permanently absorbed in departmental structures in the current financial year and a further 180 were appointed on the learner support programme with the Department of Education. She said a further 237 will go into internships funded by HWSETA.
“That leaves us with 410 social workers that will not be permanently employed as from July because currently of this 410, 231 are on an internship programme that will be coming to an end in July. This is, of course, not an ideal situation but there simply is not sufficient budget available currently to permanently absorb more workers. It is misleading for the DA to tell the media that 870 social workers will be unemployed. Unless we are using a different set of mathematical equations, 991 minus 581 equals 410,” Van der Linde said.
Phala said the party was deeply concerned that both departments did not take the profession serious by ensuring that all unemployed graduates are absorbed and dispatched to various centres to help communities. “The two departments must show serious intent to employ graduates who can provide a vital service in this province. By failing to employ these qualified social workers, the two departments are running a risk of losing these individuals to the private sector, another province or even another country,” she explained.
Story: ENDY SENYATSI