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Webinar 16: The Role of Local Government Staff in Coordinating and Overseeing Social Services

Webinar Summary and Recording

Click here to view the full webinar.

On July 30, 2014 the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance and CapacityPlus hosted its 16th webinar to explore the role of local government staff in coordinating and overseeing social services, focusing on two social service workforce and system strengthening projects in Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Amy Bess, Coordinator of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, opened the discussion by reflecting on how several past webinars concentrated on efforts at the community level to improve delivery of social services to vulnerable children and families. She emphasized that this webinar would focus on the important role of government staff at the sub-national and district level in strengthening social service systems by coordinating and supporting services and establishing linkages with both community- and national- level efforts. She explained that the presenters on this webinar would discuss how having strong government staff and structures at the sub-national or district level has led to better workforce planning and skills development; enhanced referral, case management and monitoring and evaluation systems; and improved budgeting for social services. Within this context, she introduced the speakers who would provide specific experiences from workforce and system strengthening interventions undertaken by their projects. 

Grace Mayanja, the HIV/AIDS Alliance’s Chief of Party for the Uganda SUNRISE-OVC Project, began her presentation by outlining the overall structure of the country’s social service workforce and the roles and responsibilities at each level, from national to community-level agencies and actors. To underscore one of the SUNRISE Project’s main objectives, to intervene to strengthen the workforce, she presented the results of a social service workforce needs assessment that identified issues surrounding adequate recruitment, skills in social work, supervision and infrastructure. To respond to these issues, SUNRISE worked directly with the lead government ministry, implementing a number of interventions supporting government staff at the district, sub-county, and community levels. She highlighted the Leadership Development Program, designed to develop local government staff’s leadership skills at the district and sub-county levels and the creation and national roll-out of a practice-oriented certificate course in child protection for government staff through the country’s most reputable university, Makerere. She also described the value of OVC coordination committees at the district and sub county level, in terms of achieving representation from a variety of sectors, meeting regularly, and increasingly budgeting for child support services in their respective sectors. Ms. Mayanja also described the development of a network of competent community para-social workers, who assist the government social service workforce in making routine visits to vulnerable families and creating demand for specialist services provided by government. Key outcomes of SUNRISE’s interventions include increased staffing by government itself, which has made coordination of actors and supportive supervision possible, increased skills on the part of district staff to collect and utilize data on OVC, increased resource allocation, and expanded access to protection and support services for vulnerable children.

In the second presentation, Patience Ndlovu, Chief of Party/Country Director for World Education Inc./Bantwana Initiative in Zimbabwe, shared her project’s achievements in strengthening the social service workforce and system to provide quality services to orphans and other vulnerable children. After providing context on the impact of the 2008 economic meltdown on public systems, including the social welfare system, Ms. Ndlovu described Bantwana Initiative’s multi-pronged approach developed to strengthen the government’s capacity to respond to these issues. Focusing on post qualifying training, on the job training, supportive supervision and mentoring, exchange learning and lateral skills transfer, Bantwana Initiative was able to address the skills gap among social service workers resulting from the flight of trained professionals from the country and support the establishment of a standalone department for child welfare and probation services. Trained government staff have supported the successful launch and ongoing roll out of a case management system which links district and community level structures and presents a solid case for further investment in skills building among social workers and increased recruitment of these workers for government positions.

Each of the presentations was followed by a brief question and answer session moderated by Jim McCaffery of CapacityPlus. Questions included how to ensure the sustainability of trainings for government workers when faced with staff turnover, best practices for supporting multi-sectoral coordination committees, and additional detail on the case management system and its related tools and training materials.