'We are in the profession of helping people but no one is helping us‚' says striking social worker

23 March 2017 - 18:24
By Roxanne Henderson

Social workers in the public service feel disrespected and depressed with their low salaries and by testing working conditions.

This is according to Busi Mdluli‚ who has joined the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) national strike‚ demanding better benefits for social welfare workers.

The union has laid out 13 demands before the Department of Social Development‚ following failed attempts to have these met in August 2015.

Among these are higher entry level salaries for department employees‚ provision of tools of the trade and the introduction of rural allowances.

Mdluli‚ 46‚ has been a social worker for 14 years and earns a gross monthly income of about R27 000.

“I feel so disrespected. We give our time‚ our hearts‚ ourselves to this profession.”

Working as a social work supervisor Mdluli gets frustrated when those who report to her are poorly equipped to get their jobs done.

“The buildings are leaking. We don’t have tools of the trade. Our management is very arrogant. When we reason with them in meetings they do not take anything into recognition.

“Social workers cannot afford cars‚ they cannot afford bonds. They cannot afford to take their children to good schools.”

Many of Mdluli’s colleagues are suffering from depression due to their financial challenges‚ she said.

“These people have studied for four years‚ yet they cannot afford a normal life‚ as what one would expect from any other employee.”

Mdluli works in the department’s Germiston office‚ in Gauteng’s East Rand‚ and is afraid the poorly-maintained‚ leaky building will eventually cave in.

The list of complaints Mdluli has stacked up against her employer also includes few cars for social workers who must travel to courts and to see clients and inadequate provision of stationery and cell phones.

Using a personal cell phone for social work can be risky when dealing with children awaiting trial or abusive parents‚ Mdluli said.

“We feel very helpless‚ day in and day out. This is a caring profession. You have to show empathy to the clients you are servicing. It’s very hard to do that when you are facing the issues I have just related.

“We are in the profession of helping people but no one is helping us.”

TMG Digital has reached out to Department of Social Development spokesperson Mbangwa Xaba for comment.