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Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu says her department is in talks with other departments to look into the possibility of absorbing unemployed social work graduates in the public sector. 

Zulu said this when she replied to oral questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday. 

“We are in consultations with departments such as Basic Education, SAPS, Correctional Services, Defence and Home Affairs to establish how many graduates they have absorbed to date, and the potential to absorb more social workers going forward. 

“The ability of provincial departments to absorb graduates due to vacancies arising from natural attrition is monitored and reported on a regular basis within the Department of Social Development structures,” Zulu said.   

According to the department’s records, the overall number of unemployed social work graduates currently stands at 8 873. 

Zulu said of this number, 4 829 were funded by the department, while the remaining 4 044 were self-funded or funded through other means. 

“Part of the plan is to engage [the department’s] entities to determine how they can utilise social workers within their portfolios and to realise their mandates. 

“This is part of the plan to expand the base for the absorption of graduates. We will soon engage with the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) as well as the South African Council for Social Service Professionals (SACSSP) to establish how they can assist through the appointment of interns both within their organisations and for the sector as a whole. 

“I can confirm that the HWSETA has placed approximately 1 000 interns in all provinces for work experience for a period of two years. These placements have been funded by the HWSETA,” she said. 

Zulu said as part of expediting the implementation of the Presidential 5-Point Plan and the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, the department has employed an additional 200 permanent social workers across all provinces to focus specifically on GBV. 

“We are the first to acknowledge that we have a very high number of unemployed social work graduates. This is a serious concern in light of the prevailing socio-economic challenges and social ills confronting our country. 

“It is important to highlight that we have actually recorded some progress to address this situation, but much more still needs to be done.” 

Zulu said, meanwhile, that with the advent of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the department absorbed a significant number of social worker graduates to render psychosocial support services. 

“Last year, we employed approximately 1 300 social workers on contract for a period of three months commencing 1 June 2020 and 1 July 2020, respectively, to provide psychosocial support to families infected and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These social workers were recruited from the social work graduate database. 

“National Treasury granted R33 million to the department for the contract employment of social workers. Following the expiry of the three-month contracts, the Presidential Employment Intervention Expenditure was evaluated, and an amount of R 75.9 million was made available to sustain the employment of these graduates until 31 March 2021. 

“We must commend provinces such as the Free State, which have decided to absorb these social workers permanently and we call on others provinces to do the same.”


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