“Excellence within the social work profession is of extreme importance to the South African Council of Social Service Professions. As students of this university I want to encourage you to champion excellence in your profession. But you also need to work together with other role players in communities to provide the type of interventions that will positively impact on the life of that child or that community you are serving."
These were the words of Ms Langi Malamba, the Registrar of the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP), who recently visited the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to talk to second year students from the Social Work Department, who are embarking on their practical training.
Malamba attended the event to talk to students about their professional conduct as social workers and the role of the SACSSP.
“Social work is a profession and all practitioners who are working as social workers are obliged to register with the South African Council for Social Service Professions. Likewise, social work students who are doing practice education, must also register as student social workers with the SACSSP from their second year. These students take a pledge before commencing with their practice education," explained Dr Ilze Slabbert, the Second Year Practice Education Coordinator and a lecturer in the Social Work Department.
“This was a very special occasion for our department as the second-year social work students also pledged to treat their clients with dignity and respect and to adhere to the Code of Ethics and all the requirements of the Social Work Profession at this event," she added.
Malamba reminded the students of the guiding ethical values and principles that should direct their conduct as social service professionals. This includes, she said, advancing social justice through their work, respecting individuals' worth as well as their rights as humans, their dignity, remaining competent in their profession while serving communities, cultivating integrity and taking professional responsibility while also showing care and concern for others' well-being, and service delivery.
“When you talk about ethics, it's about you. If you want to understand ethics better, you just have to look inside of you. It's about knowing what you value, because whatever you do not value for yourself, you won't value for other people. You need to ask yourself those questions – who do I respect and what do I hold dear – to determine your values."
However, she said, beyond ethics students also needed to accept themselves.
“When you are a social worker, you are going to have to accept yourself, to a point where acceptance is overflowing from you. Your acceptance tank needs to be full and you have to fill it up. Sometimes we go into adulthood with empty tanks, but we are expected to help other people. You can't do this when you are a social worker."
While she had compassion for the sheer number of clients that social workers are often assigned to assist, she said that it was important “for every client to be treated as unique".
“You have to listen to your clients in order to come up with solutions that work for them."
At the same time, she said, it was also important to acknowledge the client's right to self-determination.
“Do not enforce what you want. For example, if you are working with a child and they do not want to do what you need to do on that specific day, find something else to do that will engage that child and still allows you to do your work as a social worker."
She also spoke passionately about the responsibility of social work professionals to “defend colleagues against unfair criticism" and to also “raise issues with colleagues that bring the profession into disrepute".
“It's also important to promote opportunities for the exchange of knowledge and experience between colleagues and other professional persons, so be open to learning from others and respect others' contribution."
Photo: Ms Langi Malamba, the Registrar of the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP), recently visited the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to talk to second year students from the Social Work Department, who are embarking on their practical training. With her are Prof Lambert Engelbrecht, Ms Priscalia Khosa, and Dr Ilze Slabbert, all from the Social Work Department. (Anton Jordaan)