Phindile Ngwenya, Petro Botha


Social workers are seen as a key resource in addressing the needs of South African society (Department of Social Development, 2009:7). The Department of Social Development (DSD) employs the bulk of social workers in the country to implement policies and programmes targeting, for example, poverty, unemployment and HIV/AIDS. However, the government is faced with an overwhelming demand for services and the inability of social workers to cope with these demands. According to the Recruitment and Retention Strategy for Social Workers (Department of Social Development, 2009:7), this lack of capacity is the result of a critical problem with the recruitment of social workers and the fact that recruited social workers cannot be retained either in the government or within the profession in general. Social workers move between the government, NGOs, and the private and corporate sectors. Social workers also migrate to other fields or other countries because of better job opportunities. The Department of Social Development (2009:7) acknowledges the role of the poor working conditions of social workers: “The inability of the sector to retain social workers is further exacerbated by lack of support and the poor working conditions that social workers are subjected to, which often lead to burnout and inability to render effective services.”

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