As the world continues to grapple with the Covid pandemic and its far-reaching effects, social workers in the Western Cape have been on the front lines of the fight against poverty, inequality, and violence. These dedicated professionals work tirelessly to provide assistance and support to those who need it most. Despite the many challenges they face, including a growing workload and limited resources, social workers remain committed to their work, as evidenced by the recent announcement of the Western Cape government’s plan to hire an additional 247 social workers for the upcoming financial year.
Hotspots for Attacks on Social Workers
The need for more social workers is urgent, as social workers in the Western Cape are increasingly subject to attacks as they try to carry out their duties. Areas like Khayelitsha, Philippi, Nyanga, and Gugulethu have been identified as hotspots for such attacks. Social workers are not the only ones facing danger, as EMS staff vehicles have also been targeted. While the LEAP and SAPS officers do provide assistance when they can, it is not always enough.
Xolisani Sibhozo, a social worker based in Khayelitsha, has experienced firsthand the dangers that come with the job. He was hijacked during a home visit in Makhaza, and other colleagues have also been hijacked at gunpoint. Sibhozo’s wife, who is also a social worker, had to flee when the police vehicle escorting them was attacked. Despite the risks, Sibhozo believes that social workers are essential for the well-being of communities. He argues that community members and structures such as community police forums and street committees need to make the environment safe for social workers to do their jobs.
Need for More Social Auxiliary Workers
Sibhozo also believes that more social auxiliary workers are needed to provide administrative support and fill out reports. Esther Lewis, the spokesperson for the department, has confirmed that the 247 new social work posts will be distributed throughout the province where the needs are the greatest, particularly in the welfare and child protection system, and in hotspot areas. Lewis added that social workers have always played an important role in society and that the need for psychosocial support has increased in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
Funding for Priority Posts
The MEC of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, announced in her budget speech that the department had received R207-million for the compensation of employees over the 2023 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period. This funding will ensure the filling of priority posts within the department, including the appointment of social service professionals, which includes social workers, social auxiliary workers, and child and youth care workers at secure care centers.
The Essential Work of Social Workers
Social workers have always played an important role in society, providing support and assistance to those in need. The Covid pandemic has only highlighted the essential nature of their work. Despite the many challenges they face, social workers in the Western Cape are committed to their jobs and to the communities they serve. The announcement of additional social worker posts is a welcome development, as it will help to ensure that more people have access to the support and assistance they need to thrive. It is essential that society continues to support and appreciate the important work of social workers, both in the Western Cape and beyond.