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Advocates Build Support for the Social Service Workforce During Social Service Workforce Week
From 25-29 October, organizations and individuals across the globe brought attention to the essential role of the social service workforce in emergency preparedness and response during Social Service Workforce Week. Every year, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance hosts the week to bring attention to and build support for the social service workforce as well as to raise awareness about promising workforce strengthening efforts around the world. With the world experiencing more protracted conflicts, more frequent climate-related disasters and more severe and widespread disease outbreaks, most notably the current COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s theme focused on the crucial, but often unrecognized, role social service workers play in helping people and communities prepare, adapt and respond to emergencies.
Throughout the week, the Alliance and partners shared content and resources that explored how the role of the social service workforce has changed, and how social service workers have adapted, as emergencies have become more frequent and widespread. Heather Boetto, developer of the transformative ecosocial work model, discussed the important role of social workers in disaster preparedness. Heather noted the need for social workers to be trained in and to develop disaster preparedness and resilience in all aspects of their practice. She also emphasized the need to advocate for the role of social workers in climate issues. Specifically, she noted, “Preparing and responding to disasters alone isn’t going to resolve the underlying problems associated with human activities that cause climate change and subsequent increases in disaster events.”
Lavender Ondere furthered this notion in her blog focused on the role of the social service workforce in building resilience to climate-related shocks in northern Kenya. She highlighted that in communities in northern Kenya, which are largely pastoral and deal with climate change on a daily basis, the social service workforce has become the community’s voice for advocacy efforts focused on the development of resources to address climate-related risks and the development of climate-related policies at the local and national levels.
Content also focused on the crucial role of community level social service workers, and volunteers, in humanitarian contexts and throughout the pandemic. Glynis Clacherty, lead researcher on the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action's Community Engagement in Case Management project told the story of Nyarueni, a community volunteer working on child protection at a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Clacherty highlighted how volunteers such as Nyarueni serve a critical role in humanitarian settings but also experience great risks with limited support, noting a number of resources the project is working on to ensure the ethical engagement of such volunteers. Lee Henley, Executive Director of Children’s Future International, an organization in a rural region of Cambodia, discussed how their community level social workers have had to adapt their service delivery over the course of the pandemic. He noted how, when the collapse of tourism in the region caused food insecurity to become a major concern, workers shifted from delivering community-based training on effective handwashing and symptom recognition to providing emergency food and economic stimulus packages to generate income and promote self-sufficiency. Henley also highlighted the importance of preparing for unanticipated emergencies, which includes critically reviewing internet availability in the community to ensure effective communication during and immediately follow a disaster event.
Throughout the week, profiles of social service workers dedicated to ensuring the well-being of families and communities across the globe were also shared by the Alliance and others. This included Orlando Monteiro, a volunteer case worker in Mozambique, who identifies cases of vulnerable children, assesses their needs, develops case management plans, and provides basic psychosocial support. This also included Mónica Mariela Mayorga Ayala, a child protection and care systems strengthening coordinator in Guatemala, who works to advise government institutions on best practices aimed at sustainable and safe family reunification.