As stakeholders seek speedy passage of social work regulatory bill
By Sola Ogundipe
Worried by the worsening levels of social insecurity for millions of Nigerians and the glaring lack of attention about the relevance and welfare of social workers in the country, stakeholders in the nation’s social sector are urging the National Assembly to facilitate speedy passage of a bill to professionalise social work.
One of the concerns is that the gap between the rich and poor in Nigeria is widening and with an estimated 86.9 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty (according to the Global Poverty Clock), and Nigeria is now tagged the poverty capital of the world.
Good Health Weekly established that the nation’s human capital spending is among the worst in the world, even as indicators by global development institutions project more gloom in the future. Worsening levels of poverty, inequality, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH), life expectancy, and human rights among others are being documented daily.
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Two global development indices – the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) index put together by Development Finance International (DFI) and Oxfam, and the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, HCI, attest to this fact. According to the CRI index, Nigeria’s performance on social spending on health, education and social protection is described as “shamefully low”. For the second consecutive year Nigeria ranked among the lowest in the CRI index among 157 nations based on a comparative assessment of the level of commitment of national government towards reducing the poverty gap.
In a comparison of the value of social spending in Nigeria with other countries, Nigeria placed bottom last on the index, scoring poorly on labour rights and meager levels of improvement in progressive tax policies.
Further, the prediction by the HCI, which ranked Nigeria 152nd out of the 157 countries, is that the future would be probably as grim or worse. The HCI measures human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by age 18, assuming the child attains the age of 5, grows healthily, goes to school, obtains good education and has reasonable adult survival rate.
Calling for speedy passage of the bill in Enugu last week stakeholders gathered at a media dialogue on the Social Welfare Professionalisation bill, argued that its assent is essential to regulate the practice of social work in the country.
Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, Maryam Enyiazu who spoke during the forum put together by UNICEF in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau, CRIB, and the Federal Ministry of Information, said too many people were vulnerable due to poverty, social exclusion, inequality and social injustice, hence a strong social welfare workforce is urgently needed.
In a presentation entitled “Strengthening the Social Welfare Workforce to Better Protect Children and Achieve the SDGs”, Enyiazu explained that the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, cannot be achieved without a strong and locally-based social service workforce.
“Social welfare for children is one of the elements of Child Protection System which plays a key role in preventing and responding to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect of children.
“Without licensing and an ethical board to regulate and ensure standards, professionalism and accountability of social workers to the public including to children will remain a challenge.”
We must work together to improve protection, health and well-being outcomes for children, youth, families and communities as outlined in the SDGs.”
Also speaking, Director of Social Welfare, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, FMWASD, Mrs Temitope Bamgboye, noted that in realisation of the importance of a legal backing for effective and qualitative practice of the social work profession in Nigeria, FMWASD and the National Association of Medical Social Workers of Nigeria, NASOW, and other stakeholders initiated a bill on the establishment of the Nigerian Council for Social Work.
Bamgboye who was represented by an Assistant Director, Ben Okwesa, stated:”The Council is to serve as clearing house for the Social work profession in Nigeria, promote professional standards, improve effectiveness and efficiency and regulate the practice of social work. The bill was earlier endorsed by both houses of the NASS, transmitted to President Mohammadu Buhari for assent. “The bill was however returned for some clarifications. The identified grey areas in the bill is receiving attention and with strong support from UNICEF and NASS. We are optimistic that the bill will be returned to Mr President for his assent by the NASS before the next political dispensation.”
Among concerns of the stakeholders is that there are more non-professionals working in the field than the professionals, hence need for regulation to provide a platform that would allow government to address the social and economic difficulties faced by physically-challenged and indigent citizens.
They opined that a strong social welfare workforce strengthened by regulatory mechanism was critical to ensure licensure, certification and registration backed by political, financial, technical and moral support.
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