A huge shortfall in qualified, practising social workers in South Africa has resulted in NGOs upskilling to pick up the slack.
In the past five years more than 3,500 people from 300 NGOs have received training from the Community Chest Capacity Building in areas from basic organisational development to courses on project management and financial literacy.
The training programmes, which include 10 modules and receive applicants as young as 16, aim at uplifting NGOs by providing them with skills to access funding and operate effectively.
There are currently 30,271 social workers registered with the SA Council for Social Services Profession, but not all practise.
According to Capacity Building programme manager Yumna Martin, the delivery of basic social welfare services is hindered by a huge shortfall in social worker numbers, estimated to be about 77%.
“In this context, the work of NGOs becomes critical to fill the gap and provide support to those in need,” Martin said.
“The training of NGO practitioners means that social workers are supported in their work due to increasing levels of management, governance and service delivery.”
The NGOs offer a wide range of services across the social development spectrum including child and family care, substance abuse rehabilitation, mental healthcare and youth development.
According to the National Development Plan, South Africa needs 55,000 social services practitioners, including social workers, by 2030.
Spokesman for the Department of Social Development, Lumka Oliphant, said 571 new social workers had been employed for the current financial year, but the department was still “experiencing challenges in the absorption of graduates”.
“The department is continuously engaging national Treasury to lobby funding for the absorption of social workers and provision of tools of trade to enable them to execute their duties effectively,” she said.