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Webinar 19: World Social Work Day - Celebrating Success in Social Service Workforce Strengthening

Webinar Summary and Recording

Click here to access the complete recording of the webinar.

In honor of World Social Work Day, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance joined together with PEPFAR, UNAIDS, and USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS  to host the nineteenth webinar in the Social Service Workforce Strengthening Webinar Series on March 16, 2015, in collaboration with IntraHealth International and the 4Children Project. This webinar celebrated the success of PEPFAR-supported efforts to strengthen the social service workforce through assistance to partner governments and other stakeholders to better understand the workforce, make plans for a stronger workforce, train workers in the skills that they need to do their jobs well, and improve mechanisms for supervising and supporting the workforce to prevent burnout and enable workers to perform to the best of their ability. During the webinar, the achievements of PEPFAR/USAID were highlighted in three countries—Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe—with presenters from each describing interventions undertaken to date and the role of social service workers in supporting HIV-affected children and families and contributing to clinical outcomes and the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic.

Maury Mendenhall, Senior Technical Advisor, Orphans and Vulnerable Children, USAID, opened the webinar by recognizing the co-hosting organizations, the importance of the social service workforce in caring for children and families affected by the HIV epidemic, and PEPFAR’s decade-long investment in the area of social service workforce strengthening—and how this investment has begun to yield impressive results. She introduced the webinar’s panel of presenters and encouraged participants to engage in the Q&A and discussion portions of the webinar.

David Chipanta, Senior Advisor Social Protection, UNAIDS, provided opening remarks, reminding the audience of the professional associations, 2,000 schools of social work, and nearly 500,000 social service workers who would be celebrating World Social Work Day on March 17. Mr. Chipanta stressed the role of the social service workforce in reaching the “three zeroes:” zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero discrimination. He provided a variety of examples from around the globe demonstrating how social welfare programs had been a lifeline for people living with HIV, such as cash transfer programs contributing to keeping more girls in school in Malawi and South Africa, civil society organizations like the Association de Lutte Contre le Sida in Morocco working with social workers to ensure that the transportation and housing needs were met for people accessing HIV treatment, and how social workers in Belarus and Ukraine are linking  people who inject drugs to clean needles and syringes and other essential social services. He called on the webinar audience to join the co-hosts in harnessing these social policy and protection efforts to end the epidemic by focusing on social justice and the populations left behind, improving the quantity and quality of social service workers and deploying them to the areas of greatest need. Through these actions, Mr. Chipanta stated his certainty that together we can achieve the “three zeroes” in our lifetime.

With this call to action in mind, the first presenter, Collen M Marawanyika, Orphans and Vulnerable Children Specialist with USAID Zimbabwe, began his presentation by providing the audience with some background on the social concerns facing Zimbabwe prior to the launch of PEPFAR/USAID's social service workforce strengthening intervention, including the HIV prevalence, economic environment, and status of social service worker graduation vs. number of vacant posts. Compared to three neighboring countries, Zimbabwe had the most extreme social worker to population of children ratio – 1 social worker per 49,587 children – and findings like these precipitated USAID Zimbabwe’s decision to invest in strengthening this workforce. Mr. Marawanyika described how the Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening Conference in Cape Town in 2010 marked a pivotal point for these interventions, which included support to the Department of Social Services (DSS) to develop a five-year strategic plan, assistance to graduate officers and social services assistants to obtain social work qualifications through diploma or certificate level study, partnership with the DSS and National Association of Social Workers to create a graduate internship program and establishment of case management through training community child care workers. He elaborated on how the case management component and outreach through community child care workers were key in mobilizing children for HIV testing and monitoring treatment adherence, linking the UN 90-90-90 Treatment Targets to the achievements of social service workers in the field. On this note, Mr. Marawanyika closed his presentation with the observation that “having a functional social welfare system is resulting in positive child welfare outcomes.”

Tsegaye Tilahun, Technical Advisor for Orphan and Vulnerable Children and Household Economic Strengthening with USAID Ethiopia, led the second presentation, which focused on workforce development successes in Ethiopia. He opened with an overview of the role of social service workers in the country, outlining their involvement in case management and referrals, support and supervision for community volunteers, advocacy and community mobilization to address the needs of children, people living with HIV and other vulnerable populations, among others. He described the difficulties faced by these workers, which ranged from heavy caseloads and lack of training opportunities to few incentives for recruitment and retention of workers and inadequate resource allocation to the sector overall. Mr. Tilahun emphasized USAID/PEPFAR’s goal in responding to this situation in Ethiopia, which focused on improving the quality and increasing the numbers of social service workers particularly at the local level to facilitate better access to HIV and other services. To achieve this goal, PEPFAR/USAID provided support to establish the National Social Service Workforce Taskforce, to conduct an assessment of the social service workforce, to apply the Ethiopian Health Extension Model to social service workforce development, and finally to launch a project in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA), the Ethiopian Society of Sociologists, Social Workers and Anthropologists (ESSSWA), and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to train and deploy 4,000 social service workers in high HIV-burden areas with high numbers of orphans and vulnerable children. Mr. Tilahun highlighted some of the key achievements from these interventions, including the roll out of national occupational standards for social service workers, the leveraging of government funds to support training efforts, and government commitment to hire all graduates. To date, 787 social service workers have graduated, are employed by government, and are serving orphans and vulnerable children. An additional 901 graduates are expected in June 2015 and an additional 2,392 are projected to graduate after June 2016. Mr. Tilahun closed with a discussion of best practices learned from USAID/PEPFAR’s interventions in this field, the ongoing challenges, and future plans for strengthening the social service workforce.

Dionisio Matos, Community Care Team Leader, Integrated Health Office, USAID Mozambique, gave the final presentation of the webinar, recounting some of the experiences of PEPFAR/USAID in strengthening the social service workforce in Mozambique and its focus on competency-based course development. Mr. Matos described the status of efforts to train social workers and other public servants within the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Action (MGCAS) and how PEPFAR has, since 2009, helped to identify and prioritize training needs and then create and pilot competency-based curriculum packages in partnership with the Ministry of Health’s regional training institutions. The curricula incorporate local knowledge and international best practices and standards to better serve vulnerable populations, including children and families affected by HIV; the overall package includes a facilitation guide to strengthen teaching methods. With support from USAID/PEPFAR, the MGCAS was able to leverage existing regional training institutes through the Ministry of Health and for the first time has been allocated a budget of approximately $31,000 to invest in social welfare training. From 2011-2014, 151 social action technicians and 25 early childhood educators have graduated using these competency-based curricula packages and after a provincial level capacity assessment in 2014, 108 public servants from Sofala and Niassa provinces received short-term training in HR management, planning and budgeting, assets management, and monitoring and evaluation. Mr. Matos called attention to how competent and qualified social workers coordinate district level care and support for orphans and vulnerable children and people living with HIV and support their retention in these programs, contributing to progress toward the UN 90-90-90 Treatment Targets. Finally, he acknowledged the ongoing challenges and plans for future interventions in this field.

Anita Sampson, Interim Senior Advisor for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy, U.S. Department of State, provided the closing remarks for the webinar. She thanked the presenters for providing such an incredible learning experience for the webinar participants. She also reiterated the integral part that the social service workforce occupies in the recently released Human Resources for Health (HRH) Strategy being pursued under PEPFAR 3.0 and in linking people to services to stem the HIV epidemic. She called on those working with host governments to encourage increased investment in social service workforce strengthening activities and proper placement of these workers in the most critical areas in order to make a lasting impact. For more information, please visit

Each of the presentations was followed by a brief question and answer session moderated by Maury Mendenhall. Participants requested more information and access to the training materials and competency-based curriculum packages referenced in the presentations; they were also interested in learning more about the different types of social service workers highlighted in each country’s presentations, such as community case managers, how they are compensated or how they are motivated if they are volunteers, and finally, how case files are tracked, either through a central database or otherwise. Participants were also directed to further information and events related to World Social Work Day available on the Alliance website.