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LETTER OF THE DAY - Where are the professional social workers?

Published:Friday | January 8, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

As I reviewed the many writings, plans and efforts at reforming Jamaica, in particular the education system and the many efforts at diversion strategies within the school system and, by extension, the wider society, I observe that much is not said about tapping the skills and involvement of professional social workers.

It is interesting to note that in recent times more universities have been offering degrees and other certifications in the field of social work, but not much is being said about maximising the potential of those who are trained.

It is also noted that a large per cent of the trained social workers are not practitioners. Among the reasons forwarded by those with whom I have spoken are that the pay classification scale are extremely low, forcing them to seek better-paying jobs elsewhere. It was noted, also, that most of these persons do not receive job satisfaction because their passion is not in the areas they now work.

Unfortunately, I was one of those who, although trained at postgraduate level in the field, could not survive financially. I was, however, able to receive greater job satisfaction in volunteering in the area of social work to satisfy that part of me that needed to be actualised. I will hasten to say, however, that the many years I spent in the other areas of the public sector were nevertheless quite rewarding and I felt that I made a significant contribution to the development of my country.

Significant gap in salaries

Unfortunately, at a time when social workers are needed to work through many of the social problems of crime and violence, along with the many mental health issues and substance use/abuse, a large percentage are not practising (in paid jobs) mainly because of the significant gap in salaries, making it difficult for them to survive.

It is, however, worthy of note that a large percent are volunteers in faith-based and community service organisations, in order to actualise their 'call'. Can you imagine if more social workers could freely operate in their areas of specialisation or related fields (community, schools, criminal justice system, mental health etc)?

How can we get the trained social workers to make a greater impact in Jamaica at this time?

I am, etc.,