06/06/2013 – ACDP concerned about overworked Social Workers and children at Risk



Budget Sitting Vote 6, 06 June 2013, KwaZulu-Natal Legislature


The ACDP has sharply raised the plight of Social Workers in when dealing with Child abuse. Nationally children who have been abused, and children at risk, are not getting the help they need. Last year the ACDP stated that at least 40 000 more social workers were required to implement the Children’s Act effectively. Recent figures show that 66 000 social workers are required to deal with current caseloads, however there are only 8 913. The serious shortfall in funding for essential childcare and protection means children in need of care and protection are not receiving adequate services, especially those in rural areas. The R30 billion estimated to be wasted on corruption could have paid for 230 000 social workers for one year, or the required 40 000 for about 4-5 years. Headmasters report primary school girls are dropping out due to pregnancy very often there is no social worker available to assist. The ACDP estimates half a million children are abused every year. How do we reach these children? Social workers in South Africa are severely overworked! They are dealing with 150 cases per year each in abuse cases, sometimes in excess of 200. The globally accepted maximum is 50 and UK social worker deal with only 12 – 20 cases at a time. Children do not have access to healing and counseling because Social Workers are overwhelmed with paperwork. Scientific research in journals, shows that not only are children physically and mentally harmed by abuse, but that there are scars left on DNA, even into adulthood, that alter stress response and act as precursors to mental illness. It also causes brain damage, as well as signs of accelerated ageing. Then there is direct psychological damage. We need early detection, and intervention and that is not going to happen with over worked social workers. Children have no solace for the heinous crimes committed against them. No hope of healing and no restitution.


A women has asked me for assistance because She had a child placed with her, after she was severely neglected, and abused. 7 years later, no social worker has been to visit for the past 3 years, and they have closed this little girls file and so her foster mom cannot legally adopt her. They have now told her she has to start the whole process all over again. Through unsupervised visits with the birth mother this child has been subjected to further abuse and there are issues of racism on the biological mother’s partner as the child is mixed race and he is white. We cannot let children fall through the cracks like this. I applaud social workers who are over worked and underpaid and still willing to do the job We complain about social workers who just follow protocol and do not take individual circumstances into account, but they are simply overwhelmed. Some are themselves overwhelmed with stress.


Working conditions are also often appalling. We cannot allow our children to be further harmed by neglect. A democracy can be judged on the way it protects or fails to protect the weak and vulnerable.





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