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Guyana’s social workers eye standards, self-regulation

by Gary Eleazar

Head of the Department of Sociology, and Director of Gender Studies at the University of Guyana (UG),  Paulette Henry

Head of the Department of Sociology, and Director of Gender Studies at the University of Guyana (UG), Paulette Henry

Social Workers across the country will on Wednesday converge at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, to formulate a ‘road-map’ on the way forward on the industry’s Standards and Professional Practices.

The initiative is spearheaded, in part, by the Ministry of Social Protection and is being done in collaboration with the University of Guyana , the Guyana Association of Professional Social Workers (GAPSW) and donor partner the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The inaugural Conference on ‘Standards for Professional Social Work Practice’ will be hosted over the course of two days (Wednesday & Thursday) and proposes to deal with a number of critical areas, including the advent of regulation, ethical and other guidelines and greater inter-agency collaboration among other areas.

Head of the Department of Sociology, and Director of Gender Studies at the University of Guyana (UG),  Paulette Henry, on Tuesday met with members of the local media corps to provide a preliminary overview ahead of the conference.

She spoke to its importance since there currently exists no such guidelines, practices or codes governing the industry.

Henry pointed out that across the world, social workers are catered for institutionally, but this is not the case in Guyana.

Henry, who appeared along with GAPSW President, Akilah Dorris, together stressed the need for a body or agency tasked with oversight of the industry and to assist with inter-agency collaboration to better harness scarce resources.

She said, a team practitioners and Non Government organisations, working along with the organisers have already prepared the baseline data to inform the various working sessions of the confab.

“Coming out of that conference we will have a direction in terms of what the standards should be for  social work practice in Guyana…we’ve had for too long an unregulated landscape and we want to change that,” Henry said.

The University Director was quick to caution that while the industry is looking to government for support in terms of resources to elevate itself, it did not want government functioning in a regulatory role in the industry.

Senior Probation Officer, Trenetta Elliott, speaking on behalf of the Social Protection Ministry ahead of tomorrow’s opening, also spoke to the “somewhat unregulated” nature of the industry.

She decried too that for too long Social Workers, “have been taken for granted…our social workers are more or less frontline responders.”

Elliott said it is hoped that by the end of the process, “we can be a step closer towards the implementing of standards for professional practice for social workers.”

The team is adamant tangible steps can be made following the conference and is looking towards a six month deadline for post monitoring and evaluation of the outcome of the inaugural conference.