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Opinions of Saturday, 11 May 2019

Columnist: Theophilus Quaicoe

Social Workers: The World's key change agents

Each time the rays of troubling storms hit the lives of the oppressed, underrepresented, underprivileged,the indigents and other vulnerable groups in the society, many policy makers, politicians, religious groups, philanthropists, social thinkers and other concerned individuals strive assiduously to unchain them from those shackles of vulnerability and put smiles on their faces.

However, the skill set and method of techniques required to effect lasting change in their lives are not slated on a silver platter. It requires in-depth body of knowledge, experiences, a stock of professional ethics and practice wisdom.

Interestingly and dramatically, the world's population is growing at a faster rate with development not able to catch up with the increasing population, especially, in Africa.

All the social problems hunting the world today, are rooted in the social structure.

This demands effective and deliberate diagnosis and assessment by competent professionals, with strong theoretical orientation, indestructible knowledgeable base, telescopic visionary lens, and a shield of social justice. If these loopholes are left aloof, without immediate intervention, society will continue to stagnate in an uncontrollable mode of retrogression.

Globally, "social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. The principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.

Underpinned by the theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing".

In the quest of valuing, promoting and sustaining the significance of human relationships, the profession has established a pool of resources with regards to professional bodies and associations to enhance quality service delivery, competence and higher level of professionalism in practice. International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW), and International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), are the three global bodies representing social workers, social development practitioners and educators. The IFSW has four commissions, which are: United Nations, Human Rights Commission, Ethics Commission and Interim Education Commission, as well as five regions (IFSW Africa, IFSW Asia and Pacific, IFSW Latin America and Caribbean, IFSW Europe and IFSW North America).

In Ghana, the Ghana Association of Social Workers has been established under IFSW to champion the operational activities of Social Workers, Educators, Researchers and Department of Social Welfare, and to also ensure effective collaborative efforts among its members to realize the vision of the profession.

It has strong ethical tenets (Code of Ethics) that regulate and direct the operational activities of its members and spell out the standard method of operations for social welfare agencies as well as human centred institutions. With its vehement inclination to restoration and advancement of people's lives around the globe, the profession does so by establishing wide range of linkages, collaboration and partnership with individuals, communities, think tanks, academicians, key informants, civil right movements, politicians, parliamentarians, NGO's, public agencies, educationists, counsellors, and other human centred agencies.

This multifaceted interventive practice goes a long way to shape the holistic development of clients.

Many developed countries like U.S.A, UK and Canada have achieved greater advancement with regards to the integration of social workers into their social structure. In schools, students and pupils have enough social workers to talk to and share their troubling situations and experiences with. They provide "best fit" therapies to students to enhance their holistic functioning and wellbeing in the educational arena.

The complex and complicating needs of children with intellectual deficit, behavioral problems, psychosocial problems, as well as the physically and mentally challenged ones, and those with other complicating health problems, are being catered for and effectively restored to ensure their optimal growth and development. In the same vein, all the problems affecting the aged are resolved to enhance their survival rate and lifespan.

Workers in industrial organizations are thriving well and productivity is dancing at its peak. Total quality management is the hallmark of every organization in most of these countries. This has been so, because they have been able to integrate social workers into their organizational settings, to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of every employee, provide better industrial counselling, and make sure that every organization honors its corporate social responsibility.

Moreover, families mostly experience stability, resilience and effective functioning in the ever-changing world, because family social workers are always present in the life every family, to help them resolve their complicating problems and crisis situation.

These achievements have not been felt much in Africa, most especially, Ghana, because we have not effectively understood the nature, dynamics, roles, work, stock of knowledge base, and interventive approaches of the social work profession.

Around the globe, social workers have been regarded as the key change agents, because they have the best ethical orientation and interventive mechanisms that can effect sustainable change in the lives of the vulnerable. Pursuance of social justice is one of the major roles of the profession. They strongly advocate for the implementation of equity-based programs and policies, to promote fairness in the distribution of resources throughout the various sectors of the economy.

Over the years, professionalization and licensing of social work has become a strongly debatable topic in Ghana. Even though major stakeholders in the social work arena have been working magnificently to realize this vision, however, the scale of decision-making by the government has still remained constant.

Imperatively, lawfully accepting social workers as professionals and issuing them licences will set a stronger foundation for the profession to thrive well and execute all its functional requirements effectively. It will give the profession an identifiable mark for all Ghanaians to recognize their roles, most especially in the lives of the vulnerable.

Factually, taking this step will go a long way to reduce the rate of corruption in our social institutions, because social workers will work diligently to expose, defeat and diffuse every ideology of corrupt practices painted in the minds of people in the society. Also, they will work tirelessly with human right and social justice institutions such as CHRAJ and Amnesty International to protect and promote the rights and privileges of every citizen in the country, including the refugees.

Finally, it will serve as a territorial boundary and restrictive measure to prevent "assumed social workers" from abusing and misdirecting the work, roles and activities of the profession. Hence, this will ensure that only qualified, well trained and certified social workers provide services to clients. Eventually, it will pave way for a professionalized quality service provision.

I am very much interested in this quote by Nelson Mandela, "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of JUSTICE". It is all about bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

It is never too late...we can also get there. I believe that Africa can achieve great development if we regard social workers as professionals, accept and appreciate their roles and impact on society. Focusing on the vulnerable, empowering them, championing their rights and needs, and making sure that they become socially functional and independent is our concern. We are the voice of the voiceless and hope for the hopeless in the society.

One interesting thing about social workers that makes us unique from all other professionals is that, "we are not in it for the income but we are in it for the outcome." Empowerment, poverty alleviation and pursuance of social justice are the building blocks of the profession.

...we empower society for better and quality development.