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Development of a National Social Service Workforce Strengthening Strategy: The Ugandan experience

Nicole Brown's picture

Day 3, September 26, Social Service Workforce Week

In too many countries, social services remain severely under-staffed and unable to adequately prevent and respond to violence against children. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires a well-planned, developed and supported social service workforce.

This week, during Social Service Workforce Week, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance is raising awareness and interest in the need to strengthen the social service workforce by sharing examples of how countries are implementing national level goals as outlined in the Call to Action for Strengthening the Social Service Workforce to Better Protect Children and Achieve the SDGs.

The Call to Action recommends country and global level actions that build on existing efforts underway nationally. Endorsed by 31 organizations, the Call to Action calls on relevant state governments to initiate, lead and engage in dialogue with partners to develop or enhance a national workforce strengthening strategy, based on workforce mapping and through a government-led workforce leadership group. Effective strategies make choices about key workforce elements to strengthen in the near- and longer-term and incorporate actions related to a diversified workforce of para professionals and professionals at community, district, regional and national levels. Including the views and experiences of children, youth and adults who have received services must be part of the development of such a strategy.

In Uganda recognizing that greater budget allocations are needed for strengthening the social service workforce to achieve SDG 16.2 to end all violence against children, the government is leading the development of a multi-sectoral national social service workforce strengthening strategy.

“Uganda has been involved in many aspects of workforce strengthening, including in the early years of systems mapping, to care reforms, recently completing the Violence Against Children studies.” said Patrick Onyango Mangen, Country Director, TPO Uganda, in introducing a national panel to speak on workforce strengthening strategy development at the Alliance’s 5th Annual Symposium in May 2018. He also shared that Uganda is a Pathfinder Country for the Global Partnership to End Violence Children and is piloting the INSPIRE program as one of the action points within the national action plan. “The Ministry of Gender has been at the helm of these reforms in terms of leadership and multi-sectoral coordination.”

Lydia Joyce Najjemba, National Coordinator, Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, presented at the Symposium on the government’s key role in building multi-sectoral collaboration and influencing other stakeholder groups. This includes:

  • Quarterly meetings across stakeholder groups organized by the Ministry, and establishment of the Child Protection Working Group that brings together stakeholder groups and other ministries of government
  • Support to the National Association of Social Workers Uganda for development of processes and policies to register, regulate and professionalize social workers and development of a competency framework for para social workers;
  • Collaboration on service delivery with NGOs and civil society;
  • Research and education to support training and degree programs, including a Master of Social Work, with Makerere University;
  • Capacity building and project development;
  • Advocacy for greater funding and policy support for the social service workforce by using data from the VAC studies
  • Enacting child protection policies, including the first ever child policy and legal protections
  • Mapping of the workforce and services to deploy resources where needed

Through GHR Foundation, USAID and UBS Optimus funding support, the Alliance, Alliance Ambassadors and Steering Committee representative in Uganda organized a multi-sectoral stakeholder summit earlier this month. The summit brought together 100 actors to discuss and plan social service workforce strengthening efforts to build capacity in the areas of child protection and care reform.

Michael Byamukama speaks at the Ugandan Symposium“While there has not yet been the opportunity to have social work practice as an area of concern discussed at national level, there is growing interest among a cross section of social work professionals and child focused agencies to work collaboratively with government institutions. Standardizing social work curriculum, setting minimum standards, regulating social work practice and skilling the social workforce at service delivery level will ensure social and economic transformation – a dream we all anxiously look forward to seeing,” said Michael Byamukama, President, National Association of Social Workers Uganda.

As Uganda continues to strengthen family and kinship care in order to avoid separations and end institutions, other countries can continue to learn from Uganda’s experiences. The SDGs offer an unprecedented opportunity to undertake such efforts.

Developing or enhancing a national workforce strengthening strategy is just one of many steps toward realizing a stronger social service workforce that is best positioned to help achieve the SDGs. An investment in a strong social service workforce is a long-term investment in a resilient, peaceful and prosperous society.

In a show of support for the Call to Action, 34 organizations have added their logos. Many are working to strengthen the social service workforce in order to prevent family separation:

  • Maestral International supports systemic, holistic and cross-cutting approaches to addressing violence, exploitation and abuse of children. Maestral is a member of the Changing the Way We Care consortium that includes Catholice Relief Services and Lumos. The initiative will promote the development and strengthening of the social service workforce and case management assessments and referrals based on the particular needs of each child in Guatemala, Kenya, Moldova and Zambia to strengthen families and reduce reliance on residential institutions for children.
  • Better Care Network believes that a strong social service workforce is critical to meeting the needs of children without adequate family care. The development of a skilled and well-supported social service workforce is particularly important as countries move toward reforming their care systems and work to reduce reliance on residential care, strengthen families, prevent separation and promote family and community-based alternative care options. To help achieve this, BCN and Save the Children have co-facilitated the Tracking Progress Initiative to enable national-level actors to determine the extent to which their state or region has effectively implemented the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, and the priorities for change still ahead, through a strengths-based diagnostic and learning tool. 
  • SOS Children’s Villages aims to ensure the best care for children and young people in its programmes in partnership with other stakeholders to ensure every child receives quality care and protection in a nurturing family environment. SOS believes a properly skilled, resourced and supported child care workforce is key in ensuring quality care. To increasement recognition, remuneration and training in rights-based gender-sensitive training, SOS is collaborating with international and national partners through two projects: Prepare for Leaving Care (2017-2018) and Leaving Care (2018-2020). The projects included development of a set of national policy recommendations on how training for care professionals working with care leavers can be sustained.
  • TPO Uganda is a national level organization working with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to support dissemination, uptake and programing based on the VACS findings. TPO Uganda in collaboration with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), conducted a comprehensive mapping exercise to identify actors and structures that interact with children at all levels. They built on the sub-county Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s (OVC) Coordination Committee to include representatives from selected informal structures for a community-led service workforce to champion VAC prevention and response.


Get Involved in Social Service Workforce Week

Today is Day 3 of Social Service Workforce Week. Review and share the blogs, resources and examples of efforts underway:

We encourage you to get involved through the following methods:

  • Download the Call to Action and share with your network. Available in English and Spanish.
  • Share stories from your organization by emailing the Alliance about effective advocacy approaches you have implemented, including positive outcomes achieved, and country or global level actions as outlined in the Call to Action that you are involved in.
  • Invite a colleague to become a member, and they will receive the daily updates directly.

Additional Resources:

TPO Uganda is establishing community-led committes for VAC preventionRelated Resources on Uganda’s Approach and Global Learnings: