By Precious Mupenzi

  • The recent approval of the Sector Strategy for the Employment of Social Service Practitioners by the Cabinet underlines South Africa’s commitment to achieving the National Development Plan (NDP) target of 55,000 Social Service Practitioners (SSPs) by 2030.
  • This strategy aims to address the disparity between the high demand for social services and the limited supply of well-trained SSPs by involving all levels of government in recruitment and deployment efforts.
  • Amanda Vokwana, Director of Organisational Design and HR Planning at the Department of Social Development (DSD), highlighted the critical role of SSPs in addressing societal challenges such as gender-based violence, teenage pregnancies, and substance abuse, and explained the strategy’s focus on increasing capacity to build resilient individuals, families, and communities.

Recently, the Cabinet approved the Sector Strategy for the Employment of Social Service Practitioners. This signifies South Africa’s commitment to advancing towards the National Development Plan (NDP) goal of attaining 55,000 Social Service Practitioners (SSPs) by 2030.

The strategy includes all spheres of government in a bid to bridge the gap between the high demand for social services and the limited supply of well-trained SSPs.

The DSD News team sat with the Department’s Director, Organisational Design, and HR Planning, Amanda Vokwana, who unpacked the strategy.

Vokwana mentioned that social service professionals are critical to responding proactively to the prevalent social ills in society by providing socio-economic and psychosocial support, amongst others but not limited to, gender-based violence and femicide, teenage pregnancies, bullying, child-headed households and substance abuse.

She further explained that the strategy will increase capacity to support the building of resilient individuals, families, and communities.

It is critical to note that as of the 2023/24 financial year, the government’s strength for Social Service Professionals is 23 561. The government’s strength is inclusive of the Provincial Departments of Social Development, the Department of Basic Education, the Department of Health, the Department of Correctional Services, South African Police Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defence.

“The overarching goal of the strategy is to strengthen planning, recruitment, deployment, and management of SSPs towards a more responsive social protection system,” she said.

She explained that the approved strategy takes into consideration the primary and secondary settings within which social service professionals operate.

“The Primary setting is in the social development sector where the core business of these social service professionals is in Provincial Development of Social Development and Non-Profit Organisations. The secondary setting where the core business is not social development, but social service professions are needed to support the core business-for example in the Education, Health, Justice sector, etc.” 

Vokwana detailed that an Inter-sectoral Forum comprising government departments collectively plans for the recruitment and deployment of SSPs to the identified areas. “The forum is also responsible for collectively engaging with the private and business sectors to forge partnership, collaboration, and support for the provision of SSPs in line with their core mandates.”

A DDG chairs the Inter-sectoral Forum: Corporate Support Services of DSD which is responsible for coordination and providing leadership on the implementation of the strategy.

She elaborated that the Department of Basic Education, Justice, Defence, SAPS, Health, and Correctional Services have been actively engaged in the forum, endorsing the strategy and facilitating the recruitment of additional SSPs, while also advocating for supplementary funding.

“DSD led the development of the Strategy for the Employment of SSPs in collaboration with Provincial Departments of Social Development, government departments and entities. The draft strategy has been widely consulted, with inputs received, and broad support from the Inter-Sectoral Forum, HSDS, MINMEC, Technical Working Group (TWG) MTSF Outcome 4, Social Protection, Community and Human Development Cluster (SPCHD) and Portfolio Committee on Social Development,” said Vokwana.

She said that the strategy’s focus would be to leverage the private sector and NPOs to employ SSPs within their organisations from their own funds.

In conclusion, Vokwana said following the Cabinet’s approval of the strategy, was to:

  1. Develop a plan for the Private Sector, NPO, and CBO engagements.
  2. Develop tools for the collation of SSP information/data from the Private Sector, NPO, Local Municipalities and reporting.
  3. Further engage the National Treasury on funding bid proposals.

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