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World Social Work Day Reinforces Need for a Strong Social Service Workforce to Attain Our Global Goals

(Originally appeared on the Frontline Health Workers Coalition blog, March 21, 2017)Infographic on achieving SDGs

Today we mark World Social Work Day to increase attention and political will for greater planning, development and support to the social service workforce. Celebrated the second Tuesday in March annually since 1983, World Social Work Day celebrates the achievements of social workers and other vital cadres of the social service workforce in improving the health and well-being of individuals and communities where they live and work. The social service workforce, comprised of social workers and many other paid and unpaid governmental and non-governmental workers, is often undervalued and doesn’t receive the national and global recognition and support needed to ensure an appropriate number of trained workers are available to meet the needs of their communities. 

Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 calls for ending all forms of violence against children. Approximately 1 billion children worldwide have experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence in the last year alone.[1] This places a huge burden upon the social service workforce. The consequences of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children can be as high as $7 trillion.[2] In the East Asia and Pacific US, the cost is equivalent to 2 percent of the region’s GDP.[3] Social workers and others in the social service workforce play a vital role in preventing and addressing violence. Collaboration with other allied workforces is necessary to link children to services, including health care, mental health and psychosocial support, HIV-related services, child protection, legal assistance, and government benefits they may be entitled to.

In 2013, UNICEF launched the #ENDViolence initiative and developed the Ending Violence Against Children: Six Strategies for Action.[4] Community volunteers, para professional workers, child and youth care workers, child protection officers and social workers, among other specialized frontline social service workers, have an important role in implementation of these strategies. They live and work in the community and are first responders in helping vulnerable children and families. During the 34th regular session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children, Maria Santos Pais, outlined the importance of strengthening multisectoral partnerships and mobilizing significant resources to meet violence-related targets set in the 2030 Agenda.[5] Data has been gathered through national child protection surveys in 14 countries to document the magnitude, nature and impact of violence against children. The data is intended to inform policy, planning and budgeting.[6]

Yet the social service workforce needs greater planning, development and support to ensure the right number of workers with appropriate training are positioned to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. In Indonesia, for example, the current ratio of 1 social service worker for every 38,551 people is inadequate.[7] To raise the profile of these workers, the Association of Social Workers in Indonesia is launching a campaign to time with World Social Work Day to attract more social work students.

In Cambodia, there are only three higher degree programs for social work students.[8] Limited university level training has resulted in a lack of recognition and support for the social work profession from communities, NGOs and the government.[9] Social Services of Cambodia is partnering with other NGOs on a year-long advocacy campaign, launching this month, aimed at increasing public understanding and appreciation of the social service workforce.

In the United States, the National Association of Social Workers is the largest social work association in the world, with 120,000 members. Their month-long advocacy campaign, “Social Workers Stand Up,” demonstrates how social workers stand up for vulnerable groups. The campaign includes proclamations, public service announcements and infographics aimed at promoting national legislation of interest to the profession.[10] Advocacy campaign materials and ideas were shared during a recent webinar hosted by the Alliance.

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance aims to support this work through bringing together groups and individuals in order to provide a forum for discussion, sharing of promising practices and tools, and exchanging innovative approaches toward advocacy, all with the aim of strengthening the social service workforce. To aid members’ efforts in effectively advocating at the national level, the Alliance is creating an advocacy toolkit. As part of this work, it has developed an infographic aimed at depicting how a strong social service workforce is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

When these workers are best positioned to protect the youngest, most vulnerable members of the community, the global community benefits. Let’s support the social service workforce in ensuring that a childhood free of violence is not a dream but rather a reality for all children.

Established in June 2013, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance currently has 1,200 members across 100 countries. Learn more on how to support efforts to strengthen this important workforce at

[1] World Health Organization, Global Health Observation data, http:///

[2] Paola Pereznieto, Andres Montes, Lara Langston, Solveig Routier. ODI and ChildFund Alliance. The Cost and Economic Impact of Violence Against Children. 2014.

[3] Estimating the Economic Burden of Violence against Children in East Asia and the Pacific. UNICEF 2015.

[5] Human Rights Council, 34th Session, February 27 - March 24, 2017, Agenda item 3, Annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children.

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Together for Girls Violence against Children Surveys (VACS).

[7] Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. State of the Social Service Workforce Report. 2015.

[8] Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. State of the Social Service Workforce Report. 2015.

[9] Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. Review of Legislation and Policies that Support the Social Service Workforce in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. 2016.

Anonymous's picture

Strengthening Parenting Skills and Increasing Involvement of Men in Children’s Lives

Blog by Amanda Melville, UNICEF South AfricaMENCARE Program

Involvement of fathers in caring for infants and children benefits not only children, but also mothers and fathers[1]. To strengthen father and other male caregivers’ positive role in children’s lives, the Men Care South Africa program was launched in 2015. Since then, more than 350 social workers and 190 child and youth care workers have been trained and supported to implement the program.

“I have seen the MenCare program change men in my community,” said Simah Dhlini, a 35-year-old trained as a child and youth care worker conducting parenting training for men through the program.

From the Eastern Cape in South Africa, Simah progressed in her career as a CYCW in 2006 to become a facilitator for youth empowerment and early education programs. She is a part of the Isibindi program that is administered by the National Association of Child Care Workers. Born in a family of five, she grew up with her two sisters and two brothers and her siblings’ many children in a two-room house. In 2006 she became a Child and Youth Care Worker in Eastern Cape and progressed in her career to become a facilitator for the Youth Empowerment program in 2013 and the ECD program in 2016. 

Initiated in South Africa in response to the HIV epidemic, which left many children orphaned or vulnerable, Isibindi is a community-based program that strengthens families and helps to protect children from abuse, neglect and violence. Endorsed by the Government, Isibindi focuses on the psychosocial well-being of children and adolescents by supporting positive caregiving in the most disadvantaged households and assisting families to access key services. Child and Youth Care Workers are drawn from unemployed members of the community and receive accredited training to deliver home visits, work in Safe Parks, and offer parenting and youth empowerment programs to vulnerable children and their families. One of the challenges identified by CYCWs in their daily work was how to more effectively engage fathers and other male caregivers in efforts to care and protect children. Due to migration, the legacy of Apartheid, the impact of HIV and AIDS, delayed marriage and GBV, South Africa has one of the highest rates of absent fathers, with only 37% of children living with their biological fathers. This situation, together with cultural perceptions that child care is the ‘woman’s responsibility’, fathers and other male caregivers too often have a limited role in their children’s lives. 

The MenCare South Africa program was created and launched in 2015 to strengthen the involvement of men as fathers and as caregivers. A partnership of Sonke Gender Justice, UNICEF and NACCW, the program consists of 12 sessions that help to strengthen the relationship between children and their male caregivers by increasing men’s active involvement in childrearing and promoting gender equality and nonviolent parenting practices. Evaluations have shown a number of benefits of the program on participants, including more equal division of caregiving between men and women. 

In 2017, Simah was one of the 190 Child and Youth Care Workers trained on the MENCARE program. The program provided her with confidence and skills to engage with the young men. It helped to change her own attitudes and beliefs regarding men and child care. For instance, Simah previously feared working with men, because of the generally higher social position that men hold compared to women. Through the MenCare program, she learned what questions to ask and how to approach the opposite sex. In addition, the program helped her understand that although traditionally men are not encouraged to express their emotions, men oftentimes have deep-rooted feelings from how they were raised as children that impact their attitudes and behaviours once they themselves become fathers. 

The initial feedback from participants indicated a range of benefits of the program: men felt valued, appreciated and listened to, it provided the opportunity for the men to share experiences and allowed fathers to express their emotions, contributing to changing gender stereotypes. In addition, the program provided an opportunity for fathers and other male caregivers to explore intergenerational transmission of parenting practices: fathers discussed the impact of their experiences as children on both their life and their parenting beliefs and practices, including a sense of being neglected by their own fathers. Participants understanding of the importance of fathers being involved in childcare increased, as did their practical knowledge on issues such as changing nappies, helping in the household, supporting their partners during pregnancy, being more active in family routines and establishing the baby-father bond with very young children. The program also had a ripple effect, with participants becoming change agents in their communities. Concrete actions included male carers wanting to create structured committees to fight violence in their community and becoming advocates in their communities for men’s involvement in parenting.

The transformative impact of the MenCare program is illustrated through the story of one of the participants in Simah’s sessions - Tshepo. Tshepo is a 29 year-old man who grew up living with his mother and three brothers and did not know his father. He dropped out of school in 2007 while in Grade 11 in order to look after his sick mother and younger brother. In October 2016 his mother passed away and he then also lost his younger brother in August 2017. He has two children who are currently living with his girlfriend Gloria, 7 year-old Ayanda and 4 year-old Martin. When he joined the program, he was feeling hopeless and did not want to speak about his past. Through the program, he realised that his feelings of anger and sadness about his past – being abandoned by his father, the death of his mother and brother, and his responsibilities to care for his two ill brothers – were negatively impacting his relationship with his own children. For the first time, he opened up about his feelings of his past and present situation. He began to let go of the past situation and began to build a better relationship with his children and take responsibility for them. He also began job seeking in order to support his brothers and his children.   

Tshepo is now an advocate to other men in his community for increased involvement in child care and stopping abuse of children and women. He has organized events to address a local soccer team, spoke at community meetings during Child Protection Week, and volunteered and mentored young men in youth empowerment programs in Safe Parks and school camps.  Sharing the knowledge and motivation he gained through MenCare, he works tirelessly in his community to help young men understand to the importance of taking care of their family and helps them to be good fathers or male caregivers.

"The Men care program has played a huge role in bringing about change in myself but also my community at large. I see things differently now, and as a man, I am a better partner, father and man. Isibindi brought a program that is different and that helped remove the heavy load that has been on my shoulders for many years." - Tshepo

[1] State of the World’s Fathers Report, 2017

Photo credit: Sarah Isaacs, Sonke Gender Justice

Anonymous's picture

To Make Children Count, You Must First Count Children

Blog written by Kristen Wenz, MSW

October 17 marks the 30th anniversary of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and birth registration is one means for helping to end the cycle of poverty. As a social worker who was recently recruited as a Child Protection Specialist and global birth registration focal point at UNICEF, I’d like to highlight the important role that we as the social service workforce can play in helping achieve the SDGs, including ending poverty in all its forms everywhere, through birth registration.

Birth registration is a key part of a civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system in a country. More than 1/3 (67 of the 230) SDG indicators, require data generated through functioning Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems for effective monitoring

(World Bank Group, 2017).

Why Does Birth Registration Matter?

Birth registration and subsequent documentation (birth certificate and other legal identity documents) establishes a person’s legal existence and is considered to be a person’s first right. Children who have not had their births registered often go uncounted, and are more likely to be excluded from services such as healthcare, social services and education. Birth registration provides proof of place of birth and family ties on which nationality is determined and therefore can prevent statelessness.[1]

There are 625 million unregistered births globally for children between 0-14 years of age[2] contributing to the estimated 1.5 billion people globally who lack proof of legal identity.4 The global lack of identity is known as the ‘Scandal of Invisibility’. It is often the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society who are unregistered. Children who unable to prove their age are at risk of harmful child labor, being denied their rights to juvenile justice and may be forced to marry or be recruited into armed forces before the legal age.[3] For youth, not having a birth certificate may be an obstacle for joining the formal job sector or completing their education.[4] Later in life not having your birth registered may prevent you from registering the birth of your own children- perpetuating the cycle of exclusion and non-registration.

China’s Barefoot “Social Workers”

The “Barefoot Social Worker” or Child Welfare Directors have become the human face of a child centered, child-and HIV-sensitive social service system in rural China. Through their action, some 80,000 children are now able to enroll in school, receive vaccination, health care and social assistance. In remote communities, especially amongst migrant communities, civil registration documents were of lesser significance than a potato harvest. Without the support of the social workers, some children would have been denied an education and basic health care, including medical treatment, because they had no birth certificate or a residence identity. UNICEF provided technical assistance and financing for child welfare director positions to support community-level social work services. The model has been scaled up with government funds in more than 3,000 villages in Zhejiang, Guangdong and Shenzhen provinces. The Government of China, seeing the results, has launched an effort to build the scheme nationwide. UNICEF will continue to assist the Ministry of Civil Affairs on the development of the barefoot social worker for all communities and villages, increasing the amount and coverage of cash assistance to different categories of vulnerable children.

China’s Barefoot Social Worker, Innovating for Children, Innovation for Equity. (UNICEF, 2013)

The poorest and most marginalized populations are least likely to have their birth registered which in turn increases their vulnerability of being missed (uncounted) or denied access to essential health services. Children living in poverty are almost twice as likely to die before age five compared to children from more wealthy households.[5] Therefore unregistered children of poor households are at risk of both their births and deaths being omitted from civil registration systems, leading to an under-reporting of births and deaths for the world’s poorest.

Birth Registration for Migrants and Refugees

Knowing the number of people requiring protection and assistance determines the amount of food, water, shelter and education and health facility needs. There are an estimated 50 million children on the move in the world today. The need for solid evidence to develop better policies on child migration has never been greater. Emergencies and forced displacement of people infringe on many rights of women and children, including the right to a name and identity, from which other human and civil rights are founded. Lack of identification may prevent displaced people from returning home after an emergency. Furthermore, not having population data generated through CRVS systems, linked migrant populations pose major challenges in planning or providing services as well as monitoring the effectiveness of interventions.

The Social Service Workforce and Birth Registration

Social services are intended to support the most vulnerable members of society. As the social service workforce our job is to ensure people in need have access to the services they are entitled. If so many of the most marginalized and most in need of services are excluded from services because of a lack of identity documents, how can we fully do our jobs? If our clients are legally invisible, how can we as a workforce advocate for sufficient government resources needed to make an impact?

This year’s theme for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a call to action for a path toward peaceful and inclusive societies. To ensure vulnerable families are fully included and receive the services they are entitled to, we must ensure they are counted by being registered at birth. As frontline workers, we see this “invisible population” every day, therefore we are the ones who can help make the invisible- VISIBLE

[1] Stateless persons are defined under international law as persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. In other words, they do not possess the nationality of any State.

[2] World Bank Group ID4D, Global dataset, 2015

[3] United Nations Children’s Fund. Every Child’s Birth Right: Inequities and Trends in Birth Registration, UNICEF, New York, 2013

[4] United Nations Children’s Fund. A Passport to Protection: A Guide to Birth Registration Programming, UNICEF, New York, 2013.

Nicole Brown's picture

Many Voices are Greater than One: How you can advocate for the social service workforce to achieve the SDGs

In blogs throughout Social Service Workforce Week, we have talked about ways that the social service workforce contributes to the achievement of the SDGs and reasons why we need to be stronger advocates and better support their important work. While there is consensus that more advocacy is needed, where and how to begin is oftentimes a struggle. How do we motivate those who are unaware or not invested in the issue to join our cause?

To help develop a common message tailored to specific audiences, the Global Social Service Workforce has worked with WithoutViolence to develop a Global Advocacy Toolkit for the Social Service Workforce. The Toolkit enables advocates to use the same starting point of facts and messaging to bring about greater political and programmatic priority for strengthening the social service workforce.

The messages and tools within the toolkit draw from research-based insights from behavioral science to offer the most effective strategies for communications and advocacy. The toolkit includes narratives, infographics and fact sheets on why we need greater priority for the social service workforce in order to be able to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

Research shows that while data is important to convey the magnitude of an issue, it is the personal story that explains why it is necessary to work together and take action immediately. Decision-makers need to be persuaded to act and feel an extrinsic connection for doing so.

The Toolkit includes a number of worksheets to help you get started on designing an advocacy campaign that will suit your specific setting. Worksheets will help you to identify key audiences and partners, prepare culturally and contextually- targeted messages, draft materials for media distribution, and determine the success of your outreach efforts.

Steps for developing an advocacy outreach campaignThe first step of any advocacy effort is to determine your objective. Objectives should be context- and needs-specific, with realistic and time-bound goals. They must also be measurable and continually refined if not meeting the intended goals. The toolkit includes worksheets on creating a context-specific advocacy outreach plan (page 12) and developing the advocacy objective (page 14).

A next step is determining your target audience. Which group or individuals are you specifically trying to reach with your message? For example, if the objective is to increase funding to be able to hire more trained social service workers, then one of the target audiences may be those working in government roles that make decisions on how funds are allocated within the social welfare or social development departments. The toolkit includes two worksheets to help in identifying the audience (pages 16-17).

After establishing the objective and audience, you can then begin determining the specific message and ways you will reach your audience with that message. Other tools within the Toolkit offer 10 tips for writing and pitching an op-ed to online and print publications; how to write and distribute a press release; a guide for using social media; and example impact stories.

It is also important to involve additional partners in advocacy efforts to have a greater combined impact. With more groups involved in sharing the same message repeatedly, it will begin to have greater resonance with target audiences.

You will next need to decide what types of advocacy tools you will use. Will your campaign rely on social media? Will you be organizing meetings or conferences or preparing policy briefs? The toolkit offers a checklist to help you decide which of these approaches will best fit your campaign.

From the start, you will also need to be thinking about how you will measure your success. Establishing advocacy objectives and indicators will allow you to monitor and evaluate any significant change you have achieved through your advocacy outreach and adjust messages as needed.

As you begin using these tools, we look forward to hearing from you on the results so we can share with the network and others can learn from your efforts. And we will continue to refine the tools to ensure maximum impact.

We encourage you to find opportunities to continue the discussion and elevate the importance of a strong social service workforce. Conferences, UN days dedicated to specific topics, worker appreciation days and World Social Work Day are just a few of the many annual events that can be a springboard for local advocacy. Advocacy is needed all year, not just during the five days of Social Service Workforce Week. The Global Advocacy Toolkit will provide you with the tools and steps to add your voice in advocating for the workforce.

Murove Tapfuma's picture

How the Social Service Workforce is Vital to Helping to Achieve SDGs Related to Improving Health and Well-Being for All

Social Workers in Nigeria are improving healthby Dr. Tapfuma Murove – Chief of Party for 4Children at CRS Nigeria

In my more than 15 years of experience as a development professional, I have always marveled at ways in which development practitioners place a lot of importance on global development frameworks and goals, as if on their own these provide the solutions to developmental issues we seek to address. While such global frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important in focusing our attention on priority issues, there is an important piece of the puzzle that is frequently overlooked and this is what I prefer to term the ‘human factor’: the social service workforce that is essential to drive the development goals and agenda.

Of the 17 SDGs for 2015-2030, I place a special focus on goal three that aims to: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Interestingly, while looking at this SDG, questions that come to my mind are: Do we recognize the important role that the social service workforce must play in achieving this goal? How do we ensure that an adequately resourced social service workforce which is vital to achieving this SDG is in place? To me these are very important questions challenging us to support the social service workforce in carrying out its critical role of contributing to achieving improved health and well-being for all by promoting and facilitating access to needed health and well-being services.

An attempt to answer this question will not be complete without appreciating some of the glaring challenges that we encounter relating to a limited or a less than fully functional social service workforce in the field. This situation is true for government health and social service facilities, community development projects and civil society organizations in most parts of the developing world and especially sub-Saharan Africa, like in my home country of Nigeria. The current situation of the social service workforce speaks to huge personnel shortages, limited training opportunities, lack of incentives, burn out, and limited career or professional development options.     

In view of ongoing challenges, and given the critical role that the social service workforce plays in driving SDGs and especially the one on improving health and wellbeing, there is need to ensure that an effective social service workforce is in place. An effective workforce is the engine that drives a functional health system. The social service workforce is the human factor that will make a difference in terms of whether or not SDG 3 on improving health and well-being is realized. In Nigeria for instance, an important cadre of the social workforce known as community volunteers or case workers play an important role in supporting children and caregivers’ access to HIV services that include: testing, TB screening, referrals, care and support that is inclusive of nutrition counseling, psychosocial support and facilitating access to other social protection opportunities. Therefore, deliberate steps need to be taken to ensure that such a social service workforce is best positioned to fulfill its critical role of contributing to achieving the SDG related to health and well-being.

Steps that need to be taken to ensure this is achieved include: increasing training opportunities for the social service workforce; professionalizing the social service workforce especially in resource-constrained settings; acknowledging and recognizing the role that para professional cadres play in contributing to linking different elements of the social service system and establishing resourcing mechanisms that create a sustainable social service workforce. Opportunities for career progression and professional development also need to be increased. This can include supporting professional social service workforce networks, associations for social service workers, and platforms for enhanced learning, information exchange and sharing of promising practices.

When these actions are taken, in addition to acknowledging and appropriately supporting the social service workforce, only then can achievement of the SDG on health and well-being become a reality.

Anonymous's picture

Strengthening the Workforce to Deliver Psychosocial Support for Refugee Women and Girls: Lessons from Northern and West Nile in Uganda

by Dinnah Nabwire and Joseph Zzimula, TPO Uganda

Social Worker Training in KiyandagoUganda is home to more than 1.5 million South Sudanese refugees, with the number growing at an average of 1000+ refugees crossing into the country daily. Of these refugees, 86% are women and children, the majority of whom share narrations of traumatizing experiences that include witnessing loss of family members, destruction of property and sexual violence. Responding to the needs of refugee women and girls requires a holistic approach that revolves around a strong social service workforce who fully understands the needs and dynamics of refugee women and children. In the face of growing humanitarian needs, equipped teams will continue to be needed to deliver a cross section of interventions toward comprehensively identifying, managing and/or refering for quality psychosocial, socioeconomic and development needs of refugees.

Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO Uganda) as an implementing partner within the humanitarian response framework in Uganda has undertaken several steps towards strengthening its workforce to adequately respond to the needs of refugee women and girls in the districts of Kiryandongo, Adjumani and Yumbe districts in Northern and West Nile regions of Uganda. Through continuous trainings and reflective activities, TPO Uganda has registered critical lessons including growing impact and quality of services for refugees. Lessons learned through this project show the critical importance of investing in a strong social service workforce to deliver psychosocial support targeting women and girl surviviors of sexual and gender based violence among South Sudanese refugees. At the start of the project in 2015, refresher psychosocial support trainings were conducted for social workers with an integration of sexual and gender-based violence for them to understand the unique needs of refugee survivors.

Social workers then worked with trainers to adapt content from the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings to meet the unique needs of women and girls. Some of the adpatations included group rather than individualized sessions for screened beneficiaries, which allowed social workers to ably support peaceful coexistence of traditionally conflicting groups of women from Nuer and Dinka tribes. The groups also received sessions on peer conseling and cohesion building among the survivors.

At the initial stages of mobilizing women and girls to participate in project activities, the social workers had observed resistance from the majority of the men in permitting their wives and partners to move out of their domestic spaces and participate in group activities. They addressed this through deliberate efforts to reach men with information on sexual and gender based violence and the critical need for psychosocial support to those affected. By addressing these social and cultural beliefs, the workers were able to generate more support from men and boys and alleviate the risk of women and girls falling out of active participation.

Additional adjustments that included embedding local songs and other creative activities was undertaken by social workers to ensure women and girls who weren’t able to read or write could easily understand and connect with the sessions. Through these critical investments, TPO Uganda has currently reached over 25,000 individuals with psychosocial support and mental health responses within the three refugee communities in 2016/17, with over half of the beneficiaries being women and girls. In Yumbe and Adjumani districts, close to 3,000 women and teenage girls have been screened for mental health disorders and psychosocial support alongside over 5,000 community members sensitized on gender based violence and mental health between March and June 2017. This impact however is anchored on the dynamic teams of social workers and clinical psychologists that the organization is continuously strengthening to deliver protection, treatment services and resilience outcomes for migrants. A strong social service workforce is therefore a critical component in attaining progress on Sustainable Development Goals 8, 16, 17 and above all Target 10.7 if we are to have peaceful societies with well managed migration policies.  

Roger Pearson's picture

How Does the Social Service Workforce Contribute to SDGs Related to Violence?

by Roger Pearson, Senior Monitoring and Evaluation Adviser, Child Protection, Programme Division, UNICEF

photo credit: UNICEF/NYHQ2006-127/d'Elbee  

Global estimates point to hundreds of millions of girls and boys experiencing some form of violence, exploitation or harmful practice. One in 10 girls under the age of 20 has experienced sexual violence. In a study of five countries, at least one in four adolescent boys reported incidents of physical violence since age 15. Almost 750 million girls and women were married as children, and at least 200 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting. Hundreds of thousands of refugee and migrant children are at grave risk of violence, exploitation and abuse, including trafficking and smuggling. In addition, at least 2.7 million children, many of them with disabilities, live in residential care.

The global community has come together to achieve a world free of violence against children under the Sustainable Development Goals and in particular SDGs 5, 8 and 16. Goal 16.2 aims to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.” The world must come together to strengthen the protective environment through investments in national systems, community dialogue and behavior change. To reach these goals states will need to strengthen and expand their social services infrastructure and case management systems. And communities need support to enhance existing mechanisms that protect children. States now must go from the relatively easy task of agreeing to goals in international fora to the point where resource allocations to pay for systems building are allocated. This in turn, depending on local context, may need budget policies to be drafted, legislation to be updated, reviews and adjustments to be organized and all the other markers of good programme management. 

Taking action requires a functioning social service workforce, for without the workforce, the most vulnerable are often not protected. Social service workers facilitate critical linkages between civil society and multiple government sectors including health, education, social protection, child protection and justice. In humanitarian situations, local level community social service workers support community-based approaches that provide psychosocial support to girls, boys and women experiencing gender-based violence, including by providing safe spaces. Social service workers prevent family separation and support reunification of unaccompanied and separated children, advocate for the prevention of recruitment of children into the fighting forces and support the release and reintegration of girls and boys associated with armed forces and groups. They support programs for provision of survivor assistance to children affected by landmines and explosive arms. Social service workers are needed to protect children exposed to grave violations in situations of armed conflict and to support survivors.

Frontline or local level social service workers providing direct support to children and families are needed, as are those who are mobilizing communities, advocating for policy change, writing legislation, designing programs, securing funding, managing social service agencies, running professional associations, educating and training, supervising, mentoring, researching, monitoring and evaluating, and overseeing information management systems.

The SDGs are an opportunity for those who see the importance of social service workers to come together and advocate for the allocation of adequate resources to do what is required to fulfill the SDGs even for the most vulnerable. There are many opportunities for advocacy coalitions to come together, including when a national development plan is being revised or reviewed, when parliamentarians are up for election, or when priorities are being laid out for the use of international development funding to support national development. 

With these SDGs now in place, the ground is more fertile than it has ever been to make the case for greater investments in the social service workforce. Let us come together more closely to lobby states who have made promises to deliver on SDGs at the international level to live up to their words by making the necessary modifications to their social services country-by-country.

Amy Bess's picture

Why Do We Need to Advocate for a Strong Social Service Workforce?

by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance

Who is the Social Service Workforce?

The social service workforce is comprised of paid and unpaid, governmental and nongovernmental, professionals and para professionals, working to ensure the healthy development and well-being of children and families. The social service workforce focuses on preventative, responsive and promotive programs that support families and children in our communities by alleviating poverty, reducing discrimination, facilitating access to needed services, promoting social justice and preventing and responding to violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and family separation. A well-planned, well-developed and well-supported workforce is better equipped to support families and children to reach their full potential and better recover from emergency situations and crises.

Why is the social service workforce so critically needed in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? How can you, as readers of this blog and supporters of the workforce, contribute to stronger advocacy for a well-trained, well-developed and well-supported workforce that is better positioned to address the most pressing issues facing our societies today? 

This week, during the 4th Annual Social Service Workforce Week, we aim to continue an ongoing dialogue with you around these questions. We will highlight examples of how the social service workforce helps to fulfill the SDGs related to ending violence against children, supporting children and families on the move and improving health and well-being. And we will share ideas gathered from many of you about ways to advocate for greater support for the workforce to help achieve these goals. We also invite you to share your stories about effective advocacy approaches you have implemented, including positive outcomes achieved. 

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance recently worked with WithoutViolence to assemble a Global Advocacy Toolkit for the Social Service Workforce. The toolkit outlines concrete steps to develop context-specific advocacy plans aimed at bringing greater political and programmatic priority for strengthening the social service workforce. It is based on evidence that shows that a strong social service workforce increases the effectiveness of programs for vulnerable families and children.

It is important to note that for the social service sector, advocacy efforts are targeted at achieving both policy and programmatic change. Advocacy can be directed at protecting rights, educating the public, and encouraging civil or political participation. Advocacy can seek fundamental change for an organization or community and/or seek to address issues that need greater focus to create policy change.

The Sustainable Development Goals provide an unprecedented opportunity to influence national and international development policy and programs while highlighting the intersections between the work of the social service workforce and those working on health challenges, violence prevention and migration. This is a critical time to promote and build awareness of the valuable contributions made every day by the social service workforce toward achieving the SDGs. Infographic on achieving SDGs

To gain the attention and funding levels needed to ensure a well-trained, well-developed and well-supported workforce, greater advocacy efforts are needed. We can all take steps, big and small, toward increasing awareness and interest in the workforce. Doing so requires each one of us to be more vocal in advocating to policy makers and program implementers. Using the Alliance network as a platform for coming together across disciplines, organizations, countries and regions, we can all do more together than we can alone.

Get Involved- Social Service Workforce Week 2017
Today kicks off the week of advocating for social service workers. Each day will feature an e-mail to our members and mailing list and will include a blog, links to resources and sample tweets. The topics for the rest of the week include:

We encourage you to get involved through the following methods:

Nicole Brown's picture

Conference Highlights Importance of Strengthening the Social Service Workforce

Over three days in September, 400 attendees from 35 countries came together to discuss achieving “Equity, Equality for All Girls, Boys and Youth” at the Regional Psychosocial Support (REPSSI) Forum, held in Arusha, Tanzania. In discussing ways to enhance wellbeing for vulnerable children and their families, participants shared promising practices and innovative approaches to address some of the greatest challenges facing their local communities and nations. The Forum highlighted the ways in which designing and implementing programs that combat these challenges requires a strong social service workforce.

Keynote speakers including Tanzania Minister of Health Hon. Ummy Mwalimu; REPSSI CEO Noreen Huni; Jake Glaser, Ambassador of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; and representatives from the Southern African Development Community pointed to the importance of multi-sectoral collaboration and highlighted evidence depicting the high cost of inaction on lives and livelihoods.

Case Management working group sessionSeveral sessions throughout the Forum spoke to the importance of social service system strengthening with an emphasis on workforce strengthening. As co-host of the Forum, the Alliance presented three panel sessions. During a session on case management approaches to strengthen the social workforce, three presenters shared the key role of the workforce in providing services for children and families impacted by HIV/AIDS, family separation and disabilities. Case studies from Kenya, the East and Southern Africa regions and Namibia featured the usage of innovative tools and resources on integrating case management into violence prevention programs, and using case conferencing and supervision to strengthen the workforce and improve service delivery. Both sessions also shared the current work of the Interest Group on Case Management, including small group discussions to review a document outlining core case management concepts and principles and an assessment tool that is being designed to review and compile existing case management tools into a compendium that will be located on the Alliance’s website.

A third session hosted by the Alliance shared tips and examples for developing an advocacy campaign to advocate for greater workforce-supportive policies nationally, regionally and globally. The Alliance shared some of the worksheets and steps for creating an advocacy campaign that are included within the new Global Advocacy Toolkit.

Speakers on the Alliance’s panels included Alliance Ambassadors, Alliance staff and 4Children colleagues who shared country case studies and regional approaches. The Alliance also hosted an information table during the Forum to share publications and information with participants. More than 50 new members from 13 countries became members of the Alliance network during the Forum, and many also joined the Interest Group on Case Management.

Additional sessions included a review of the Minimum Standards on Comprehensive Services for Children and Young People in the EAC, focusing on five key strategies to ensure the provision of comprehensive services, one of which is the social service workforce. A session on enhancing country ownership and strengthening systems on psychosocial programs highlighted how community health is improved through social service system strengthening.

In offering closing remarks, the Alliance challenged participants to remain engaged, build on discussions and make progress toward workforce strengthening. In its role as a convener, the Alliance stands ready to provide a platform for ongoing learning from colleagues around the globe, exchanging best practices across borders and deriving new and innovative approaches. The Alliance shares in the aims of the Forum to generate political will, convene people across roles and sectors, and advance knowledge through the exchange of promising practices.

Grace Kozak's picture

The Role of the Social Service Workforce in Responding to Human Trafficking

logo for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, July 30The World Day Against Trafficking in Persons was established in 2013 by the United Nations in order to raise awareness and promote the rights of the nearly 2.5 million people in modern day slavery. Out of the UN’s efforts to combat human trafficking, the Blue Heart Campaign was born, an awareness raising campaign being joined by the governments of many world nations, including Peru, Switzerland, Brazil, Nigeria, and Lebanon.

This global problem affects every nation in the world, with the most vulnerable members of society being targeted as victims of trafficking. Many have been made vulnerable by poverty and conflict, but no matter the reason, when victims are trafficked, social workers and other social service providers play a critical role in raising awareness of trafficking and aiding survivors.

“Our law clinic represents clients who are survivors of human trafficking. Social workers play a key role in many of our clients' efforts to recover from the trauma of trafficking and to build a secure future life,” says Suellyn Scarnecchia, Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic. “Social work case managers who help both our minor and adult clients, connect our clients to essential resources like cash assistance, housing, education, English language training, employment, transportation, and counseling. Many of our clients receive counseling from social work therapists in individual or group settings as well. We teach our law students that the skill of working with other professionals, like social workers, is essential to their clients' success. Serving victims of human trafficking is truly an interdisciplinary enterprise.”

Human trafficking robs its victims of their most basic human rights, and members of the social service workforce, being grounded in protecting the rights of others, must be trained and ready to respond to trafficking in their communities.

Learn more about international NGOs working to combat human trafficking:

Download resources related to human trafficking from the Alliance database: