The Malta Independent 26 May 2016, Thursday

New law 'will make it impossible' for NGOs to employ social workers

Thursday, 14 January 2016, 12:06 Last update: about 5 months ago

NGOs this morning said that amendments to the law regarding social workers will make it impossible for them to employ social workers.

Parliament yesterday discussed a Bill proposed by the Minister for the Family and Social Affairs which will, if passed, block NGOs from employing newly qualified Social Work Graduates. Entitled An Act to amend the Social Work Profession Act, Cap 468, the Bill currently stipulates that, in order to obtain a warrant, social work graduates will have to work as social workers for two years full-time or six years part-time with a government agency.

If the amendment Bill is approved as it is, NGOs will find it practically impossible to employ new social work graduates since new graduates will have to enter state employment in order to get their warrant.  Such a situation is untenable for the following reasons:

1) After being employed by a state agency for two years to obtain their warrants, it is highly likely that no social worker will want to leave a secure public sector job with a number of related benefits to work with an NGO that depends on charitable donations and public funding.

2) New Social Work graduates who wish to work with an NGO rather than with the state will be unable to make such a choice.

3) Even young priests and nuns who graduate in Social Work (there are a few already) will have to work with a state agency rather than their Religious Orders in order to be granted a warrant to practice.

4) NGOs which provide a range of services in support of very vulnerable groups have much to offer to the Social Work profession and to society: no bureaucracy, high commitment, the space to multi-task, the ability to practice generic social work rather than immediately, on graduation, being engaged to work with state specialized services, the space to be creative in responding to glaring needs that are not being met, the opportunity to practice community social work rather than try to support families at national level. Through the years, NGOs have contributed and must be helped to continue to contribute immeasureably to meet the needs of vulnerable groups in our society. The services NGOs offer cannot be delivered in the same manner by the state.

5) What is most worrying to NGOs is that the proposed Bill will definately result in the de-professionalization of NGOs. NGOs will be reduced to working with non-professional workers, thus lowering standards of professional services to the thousands of vulnerable service users that they currently serve or to wind down the services they currently provide.  If this happens, Government will have to substantially increase its poverty and social inclusion budget to ensure the thousands NGOs serve remain entitled to access support services.

NGOs involved in service provision to vulnerable groups ask that the proposed Bill be amended and re-proposed once agreement with the NGO sector and the Social Work profession is reached.   The Malta Association of Social Workers (MASW) is supporting NGOs in this issue.

Signatory NGOs are the following:

1.      Aditus

2.      Anti-Poverty Forum Malta (APF)

3.      Church Schools Association

4.      Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS)

5.      Dar Merħba Bik Foundation

6.      Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants

7.      Hospice Malta

8.      Inspire

9.      Migrant Women Association Malta

10.  Platform for Human Rights Organisations Malta

11.  Richmond Foundation

12.  St Jeanne Antide Foundation

13.  St Joseph Home, MSSP

14.  Salesians of Don Bosco

15.  Secretariat for Catholic Education

16.  SOS Malta

17.  Ursuline Sisters

18.  Victim Support Malta

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