Groundbreaking Report Shows Strong Social Services Improve Wellbeing of Vulnerable Children and Families

The State of the Social Service Workforce 2015 Report, released last week by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, demonstrates how gaps in workforce support and funding negatively affect the quality and effectiveness of social services, leading to missed opportunities for improving the wellbeing of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The report is a review of the social service workforce in 15 countries.

Social service workers reunite families, provide critical psychosocial support, alleviate economic hardship, and address larger social concerns, such as poverty, discrimination, and injustice. They often connect families to the health services they need, and health workers rely on them to refer clients who may need additional support services.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Low ratios of social service workers to population reduce access to and quality of care (Nepal ratio = 1:115,800)
  • Lack of up-to-date data on this workforce negatively affects allocations of resources, resulting in decreased quality and availability of services
  • Many countries currently lack a registration and licensing system but have committed to implementing a system to increase standards for care
  • All countries in the report offer bachelor’s degrees in social work, yet only six have doctorate programs.

“This report aims to establish a baseline for collecting and sharing data in order for the right number of workers to be in the right positions and locations,” says Dr. James McCaffery, Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance. “Strengthening this workforce will ensure vulnerable populations have access to the care and support they need.”

The report was launched at the 2nd Annual Global Social Service Workforce Alliance Symposium held last week in Washington, DC. More than 360 participants from 20 countries joined the event including participants from UNICEF, USAID, PEPFAR, governments, professional associations, non-profit organizations, and universities.

The report profiles workers in different countries and their varying roles, including Daw Khin Htwe Kyi in the Department of Social Welfare in Myanmar. The country is developing a case management system to train and deploy case managers throughout the country. “The system will not only bring together different service providers, but importantly link these service providers with families who need the support,” she said.

The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance is hosted by IntraHealth International. The report was made possible by generous support of GHR Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program to CapacityPlus (led by IntraHealth International) and 4Children (led by CRS). The Alliance’s mission is to promote the knowledge and evidence, resources and tools, and political will and action needed to address key social service workforce challenges, especially within low- to middle-income countries. The Alliance acts as a convener to share good practices, advance knowledge and advocate for workforce improvements to lead to better outcomes for children and families. Members of the Alliance span 66 countries.