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Ending Violence Against Children Requires a Strong Social Service Workforce

September 27, 2018

The full recording is available on the Alliance's YouTube channel.
Download the presentations.

The webinar “Ending Violence Against Children Requires a Strong Social Service Workforce” was held on September 27, 2018. The webinar is the 27th held by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance and funded by PEPFAR and USAID to the 4Children project implemented by a consortium of organizations and led by Catholic Relief Services.

Dr. Catherine Maternowska, Advisor, Data, Evidence and Learning at the Global Partnership to End Violence, moderated and introduced the webinar, which was co-hosted by the Global Partnership and UNICEF. Dr. Maternowska provided background on the webinar objective to review ways that strengthening the social service workforce is interwoven into different countries’ national plans of action to address violence against children and the seven strategies outlined in the INSPIRE package from WHO and partners.

She then introduced the first speaker, Dr. Howard Taylor, Executive Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

Dr. Taylor presented on ‘Momentum and Opportunity: Strengthening the social service workforce.’ He shared current global trends and efforts underway, including: the global goal 16 that was launched three years ago; the Solutions Summit held in 2018 in Stockholm that brought together 500 stakeholders for the first time to discuss ending violence that is helping to drive political momentum; the INSPIRE package with seven strategies for ending violence and an implementation handbook recently developed by the World Health Organization and partners; increasing the number of Pathfinder Countries that have committed to develop national action plans to end violence; and the #MeToo movement that in the last year has been a driver of norm change and increasing intolerance of harmful behaviors that can be leveraged specific to ending violence against children.

The Partnership Secretariat works with 300 member organizations and governments. Over the next three years, the Partnership is working to grow demand for change, mobilize new resources and equip practitioners toward achieving Vision 2030, a world where every child grows up safe and secure. He outlined several of the actions planned within these key objectives, including diversifying the partnership, developing an investment case for mobilizing more resources and ensuring that practitioners on the ground have the tools and expertise necessary.

There has been increasing momentum for countries to join the Partnership as a Pathfinder Country, with nearly one joining each month, with a total of 23 to date. Several key events have been identified in 2019 to take a promotive approach to increasing the number of members.

Dr. Taylor concluded by sharing how the Partnership is encouraging governments to develop comprehensive national action plans that integrate social service workforce strengthening. Key actions being undertaken toward strengthening the social service workforce by Pathfinder Countries in their national plans include promoting policy and legislation on the social service workforce; defining types, functions and ratios of workers; supporting curriculum and standard setting; and creating jobs within national civil service and support for career development and progression.

Dr. Maternowska thanked Dr. Taylor for his presentation and sharing some of the current global efforts as well as national approaches to support governments in their plans to strengthen the workforce toward ending violence against children. She then introduced the next speaker, Amy Bess, Director of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance.

Ms. Bess presented on ‘Recent advocacy efforts to ensure the social service workforce is backed by adequate political, financial, technical and moral support.’

Ms. Bess began by sharing the global definition of the social service workforce that was developed from 2010-2014 by hundreds of people globally. A key aspect of the definition is emphasizing the diversity of the workforce, with many cadres and titles, yet who all share the common goal of helping to ensure the healthy development and well-being of vulnerable populations. The definition is being reviewed now in regions with workforce mapping and analyses underway, with a slightly revised definition and explanatory text to be shared for broad input in 2019.

She shared that the SDGs, particularly those related to health, migration and child well-being, cannot be achieved without a strong social service workforce in place. However, a common narrative is needed to galvanize greater support from decision makers for workforce-supportive policies, legislation and practices.

A Call to Action has been developed with specific country-level and global-level actions needed to strengthen the workforce, including development of a national, government-led workforce leadership group; workforce assessments to provide workforce data; funding commitments to implement strategies and monitoring; and evaluating and reporting against indicators. To date, 34 organizations have signed on to this Call to Action to show support and advocate for these actions to be realized. To support advocating for actions, a Global Advocacy Toolkit has been created.

Ms. Bess also shared some of the ways in which members can become involved through the Alliance, including through the Alliance Ambassador program, which is a leadership development program for workforce advocates. Many successes were realized by these individuals within their countries for greater planning, development and support of the social service workforce. Individuals are encouraged to work with these leaders on national actions. She also shared other events the Alliance leads or promotes throughout the year that allow for greater engagement, and finally, she called on individuals to become a member of the Alliance to become further involved and work collectively toward achieving a shared goal of a stronger social service workforce.

Dr. Maternowska reiterated the importance of greater advocacy, with success being visible within national and local actions undertaken. She thanked Ms. Bess for her presentation on the work of the Alliance and global and national activities. To provide a country-specific example, Dr. Maternowska then introduced Nela Krnic, Child Protection Officer within the UNICEF Montenegro office.

Ms. Krnic presented on ‘Protection of Children from Violence through Strengthening the Social Service Workforce.’ Montenegro became a Pathfinder Country in 2017, following establishment of an inter-ministerial high-level body on violence against children in 2016.

In 2017, the government of Montenegro adopted a strategy for the prevention and protection of children against violence through 2021. Specific to the workforce, the strategy includes improving the framework for professional, quality and more efficient care for and protection of children. A common set of indicators on violence against children were agreed upon by all relevant ministries and a strategic framework for the social and child protection system has been adopted as well as a legal framework to end violence against children. To lead many of these efforts, an Institute for Social and Child Protection was established and 13 centres for social work have been expanded and reorganized. Enhancing the work of these centres is considered key to reform of the social and child protection system.

In 2011, UNICEF assisted the government in an in-depth analysis of the centres of social work. The baseline assessment showed insufficient staffing, low capacity of staff and limited geographic coverage. As a result, a Law on Social and Child Protection was issued which includes organization, norms and standards. There was also a 60% increase in staff, roll out of a Social Welfare Information System, education of 80 case managers, 100 social workers were licensed, and new accreditation of programs standards were established.

Ms. Krnic then reviewed the case study presented at the Stockholm Summit in February 2018 on community-based operational multi-disciplinary teams for protection from violence. Teams are now operating in 17 municipalities, helping more than 2,500 children so far. These teams coordinate the work of all sectors, improving linkages for service delivery with other sectors for holistic plans of intervention. Procedural protocols and an interdisciplinary approach are now in place and documentation has also improved. In short, these teams have positively impacted quality and availability of services for those affected by violence.

In thanking Ms. Krnic for her deep-dive into Montenegro’s process over the last 10 years, Dr. Maternowska then invited a second country-specific case study to be shared by Sebastian Kitiku, Child Rights Development Assistant Director within the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children.

Mr. Kitiku presented on ‘Strengthening the social service workforce in Tanzania through the National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children.’ The first VAC study was commissioned in 2011, and the process of expanding the child protection system is built from this evidence base. An evaluation was conducted in 2016 to assess the child protection system and process of addressing violence against children. There were eight fragmented plans for address VAC, so one national plan was developed after working with a consultant, meeting across ministries and reviewing the INSPIRE strategies to determine the thematic areas that needed to be included. The National Plan of Action includes costing for the planned actions.

Within the National Action Plans, he shared that there are several key steps outlined for planning, developing and supporting the social service workforce. Following an assessment to determine the numbers and types of workers and human resource capacity needs, plans were developed for all levels, and guidance and counselling teachers were introduced within all schools. A national standard training manual was developed for various cadres and used to train 592 social welfare offices as well as train community development officers. VAC was mainstreamed into the social work curriculum and child protection is in the process of being mainstreamed. A mentorship program was also developed to provide greater support to individuals.

Due to a shortage in social workers, volunteer community case workers were introduced at the village level and case supervisors were introduced at the ward level as part of a national integrated case management system. District master trainers were trained, and they then conducted training for the new community case workers. Social welfare officers were also recruited from the government to provide services within refugee camp settings to meet gaps in needs arising from a shortage of social workers.

Tanzania continues to support social service workforce strengthening toward fulfilling the National Plan of Action.

Kirsten Di Martino was then introduced. As Senior Advisor, Child Protection at UNICEF Headquarters, she presented on ‘Strengthening the social service workforce for child protection.’ She reiterated the importance of an effective child protection system for affecting positive change in ending violence against children, and that a critical element of that system is a quality social service workforce with a clear mandate for protecting children. These workers must be able to both provide services for mitigating risks but also when harm has already occurred.

UNICEF’s global experience and evaluation of violence against children programs shows that the social service workforce remains one of the weakest components of any child protection system and greater efforts are needed to strengthen the workforce. With the SDGs and a new strategic plan for UNICEF, she stated that there is greater priority and attention for strengthening this workforce. The UNICEF Strategic Plan for 2018-2021 places a high priority on ensuring every child is protected from violence and exploitation, and UNICEF is elevating social service workforce strengthening as a key intervention for achieving this goal. Their strategic framework is devised from the Framework for Strengthening the Social Service Workforce developed by the Alliance and partners, which includes planning, developing and supporting the social service workforce. A strengthened social service workforce at the national and subnational levels performs a range of functions, including promotive and preventive work, direct services, and rehabilitative services, for a continuum of child protection services.

Ms. Di Martino shared that UNICEF is currently developing guidelines for for strengthening of the social service workforce for child protection. The tools that will be developed to help in implementing the guidelines are intended for use by all country-level actors involved in child protection programs and who interact with the workforce. UNICEF is also helping countries to establish baselines on social service workforce strengthening to then be able to track progress through key indicators, which are part of the UNICEF Strategic Plan. Additionally, UNICEF has developed specific criteria to measure progress in achieving these indicators. A baseline survey was conducted in 2016 in 146 UNICEF countries, showing that a limited number of countries are currently achieving results around the key indicators. The guidelines and tools are intended to increase this number significantly over the next three years. UNICEF will continue to work with key stakeholders within countries toward strengthening the social service workforce for child protection, including prevention and response to violence against children.

Questions were addressed by speakers following the presentations, including on the qualifications of social welfare officers in Tanzania, how to become involved as a Pathfinder Country, how to work more closely with UNICEF at the national level to apply these tools and guidelines, how to conduct campaigns to affect change in social norms, and increasing government support and budgets for strengthening of the social service workforce.

The webinar concluded by inviting participants to continue the conversation on the Alliance’s online discussion boards or by becoming a member of the Alliance. The full webinar recording and presentations are available for downloading from the Alliance website.

Read best practices from Tanzania, Montenegro and elsewhere on integrating the social service workforce within these plans of action.