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Rep: Social workers could improve outcomes in businesses, schools

Published:Saturday | April 20, 2019 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter

A lack of appreciation or recognition of the value of social work is frustrating hundreds of persons trained in the field as they find it hard to land jobs locally.

Eva Forde, president of the Jamaica Association of Social Workers (JASW), said while there are about 3,000 social workers in the country, many are exasperated as they are not being utilised in workplaces and, to some extent, schools.

“Our social workers have challenges finding jobs and it’s not that the need isn’t there,” Forde said.

“Social workers overall are frustrated that the society doesn’t seem to know who social workers are [and] what social workers do,” she lamented.

Forde said there is an increasing need for social workers in workplaces, given that employees are oftentimes struggling with personal issues which could affect productivity.

“You will find that a lot of these challenges stem from their personal lives [and] what is going on behind the scenes. Maybe some mental issues are happening, but it escapes them (employers). It doesn’t occur to them that a social worker in house – not contracted – could help to mitigate ... a lot of those issues,” the JASW president said.


Forde, who has a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University in New York City, noted that most workplaces in the United States have an employee assistant programme, which allows social workers to provide in-house counselling to workers.

She said companies institute this programme because they realise that their employees are an investment. So instead of firing them when they turn up to work drunk or continually arrive late, for example, social workers provide intervention.

“It is a good investment to have this programme, but [for] most persons, it does not even occur to them that that is what is needed. They just say, ‘You are fired!’ Or they will allow the bad behaviour to continue and impact their bottom line negatively,” she said.

Forde said while some social workers are employed in the different regions under the Ministry of Education, each school should have one of these individuals on staff, given the social problems that currently exist in our education system.

“What we really need are social workers in every school, working alongside guidance counsellors, working alongside the deans of discipline, working not only with the children, but with the teachers, with the parents, with the administrators and auxiliary staff,” she said.

“We can say we don’t have the budget all day, but the truth is we find money to do the things that are important to us,” she added.