Social workers need legal regulation, more involvement in policy making

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 March 2021, 16:09 by Denis Chabrol

Doctoral candidate in Social Policy, Mrs. Dionne Frank

Two Social Work academics are recommending that a law be enacted to regulate Social Work practice and that Social Workers and the wider society do more to recognise and involve practitioners in project formulation and implementation.

Appearing on News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM to mark World Social Work Day 2021, Doctoral candidate in Social Policy, Mrs. Dionne Frank  advocated for amendment to the relevant legislation. “There is no legislation under which the Social Work profession is recognised, except for an outdated policy introduced in the 1970s when the Social Work programme was introduced at the University of Guyana where in the Public Service we recognise Social Workers as those who have had at least two years of training at the university level and there is recognition in the Domestic Violence  Act,” she said.

Mrs. Frank noted that the latest effort to regulate the profession dates back to 2019 when standards were adopted by the Ministry of Social Protection, now the Ministry of Human Services, but she said there was no framework or machinery to monitor and implement them.

“In Guyana, the focus should be to have Social Workers be accountable to clients, uphold the values and principles and be forced to access continuing education on an annual basis to remain relevant and in tune with the progress of the profession,” said the University of Guyana expert in Social Work.

Ms. Debbie Hopkinson

Noting that the Caribbean region is the only jurisdiction where there is no legal requirement for social workers to be registered but little has been done across the Caribbean to legally regulate the profession. “The discourse in the region is sporadic and only gain traction when something happens to rock our core,” she said.

Grenada has opted to join the Latin America grouping which has a  strong connection to the International Federation of Social Workers. Mo Grenadians were trained in Europe and North America so they have a deep appreciation for regulations.

Mrs. Frank, who is also a Lecturer at the University of Guyana’s Social Work Unit, says the Social Workers also need to reorganise themselves with one voice. “If we are to be truthful, the Social Work Association is at a point where its visibility is extremely low and if that important aspect of professional identity, we are likely to be confronted with this problem for a long time,” she said. Mrs. Frank notes Social Work professionals bring to bear a variety of expertise in law, economics, politics and psychology.

Postgraduate Coordinator and Lecturer at the Social Work Unit, Ms. Debbie Hopkinson should be integrated in planning and implementing projects in the same way that medical doctors and lawyers are recognised and involved. “Most of the Social Workers are first-responders and they know and they interact with persons so they understand most times the kinds of issues that are coming out of communities , from families and they can speak to those issues and help with the planning process so we are also planners, we are policy-makers and I think if we begin to see Social Workers as having those key and important roles in our society, then we will be much more respected,” said Ms. Hopkinson.

Ms. Hopkinson questions whether Social Workers are part of the National COVID-19 Task Force to address issues of economic livelihoods and mental health. She also recommends that Social Workers be placed in schools and that their working conditions are improved.

World Social Work Day was observed on March 17, 2020 and highlighted ‘Promoting the Importance of Human Relationships’.