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Webinar 9: Professionalizing the Social Service Workforce - The Role of Licensing

Webinar Summary and Recording 

Click here to view full webinar.

On March 28, 2013, the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance hosted its ninth webinar on the topic of Professionalizing the Social Service Workforce: The Role of Licensing.

The session began with opening remarks from Dr. Robin Mama, Professor and Dean of the School of Social Work at Monmouth University.  She introduced the webinar topic of licensing within the broader context of professionalizing the social service workforce, in which improving education, regulation, and recognition of social service work as a profession are interlinked and similarly important. Emphasizing the unique perspectives brought by the speakers from two different corners of the world, Dr. Mama encouraged participants to use this webinar as an opportunity to learn from their leadership in moving this agenda forward. Questions surrounding the topic, such as the benefits and challenges of regulation and licensing, deciding who should be regulated and the type of education and training they should have, were reiterated as guidance for the presentations and subsequent discussion.

The first presentation was given by Tata Sudrajat, President of the Indonesia Association of Professional Social Workers (IPSPI) and Family Based Care Senior Program Manager for Save the Children. Mr. Sudrajat presented on recent progress in reforming social work practice and education in Indonesia. For each, he provided the context for these changes and the challenges encountered. For example, many social work graduates in Indonesia pursue work as civil servants and do not practice social work, yet the country’s 34 provinces are estimated to need 150,000 social workers. IPSPI has joined with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Indonesian Social Worker Education Association (IPPSI) as well as the National Council of Social Welfare (DNIKS) to establish a social work certification body (LSPS) and exam for social workers based on standard competencies, a code of conduct and a national curriculum that have recently been developed. He guided participants through an overview of the certification and license system and provided additional detail on the certification levels and requirements that have been adopted in Indonesia.

In the second presentation, Phillip Bohwasi, Chairman of the Zimbabwe Council of Social Workers, presented on social work organization and regulation within the context of Zimbabwe. In his presentation, Mr. Bohwasi provided background on the Council of Social Workers and its mandate to register and license all practicing social workers, conduct qualifying examinations, enforce ethical practice and discipline and enhance the status and effectiveness of the profession and promote the interests of these workers. The Council has worked to recognize the value of regulation in the current political and economic environment of Zimbabwe, where provision of basic social services has been compromised, cases of child sexual abuse have risen and the reality of brain drain has compromised the ability of the social service workforce to respond to these issues. A strong push for regulation by the revived National Association of Social Workers in 1990, along with support from the International Federation of Social Workers and other countries’ national associations, resulted in the enactment of the Social Workers Act 27:21 in 2001. This act provided legal recognition of social work as a profession and established the Council of Social Workers as a regulatory authority. The Council’s four committees carry forward work to produce minimum standards of practice, a code of ethics, curriculum development and advocacy for registered social service workers.

Each of the presentations was followed by a brief question and answer session moderated by Jim McCaffery of CapacityPlus. Many questions centered on the specifics of each speaker’s experience working with their respective associations and local challenges to promoting these reforms. Other questions related to raising public awareness of the social service workforce and the role of government support to implementing systems for regulation, certification and licensing.