Thursday, 27 September 2012

social workers' day

today is social workers' day, and i have to say that this is one group of workers who don't get the recognition they deserve.  it's an incredibly difficult area of work, one that causes high levels of stress.  it's an area of work that tends to be understaffed, regardless of the organisation, and definitely underpaid.

given the fact that the work can be physically dangerous, and is definitely emotionally fraught, in a society that cares about the well-being of all its members, social work should be valued at least as much as (if not more than) high-level business managers who earn 7-figure salaries.  they have the potential to have a huge impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society.  remuneration is the most important way we have of showing how much we value work, which means that social workers have been seriously shortchanged.

i have to say that i was really grinding my teeth listening to paula bennett congratulate social workers, when one of the first things the national government did when coming into office in 2008 is to scrap the pay equity unit - the unit that was currently working on improving the wages and conditions of social workers working for the government.  if she actually wants to recognise the value of the work they do, then she really needs to do a lot more than give us hollow words in parliament.  she'll do something concrete to ensure they get adequate remuneration for the work which she claims to value.

social workers working the NGO sector fare even worse.  the current funding environment is particularly challenging, with private funding organisations having much less funding available because of investments performing poorly in a recession.  this situation is exacerbated by the fact that we have a government who have been prepared to cut revenue via taxes, which then provides the justification for cutting the pool of funding available to NGOs who provide social services.  the end result is that NGOs offer much lower wages than these workers deserve, especially when you take into accoun the fact that they have a 3-year degree & are required to be registered with the social worker registration board.

on the whole, there's not much for social workers to celebrate.  this day is rather a chance for us to celebrate and acknowledge the work that social workers do.  so i would like to thank social workers across the country for their efforts, and to acknowledge that our society would be so much worse without them.

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