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Unemployed social workers camp outside KZN premier’s office

Unemployed social workers in KwaZulu-Natal have been camping and sleeping outside the premier’s office since Monday.

This is an attempt to get attention from those in power and to air their “heartbreak” at being unemployed after four years of hard learning.

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Ntombencinci Matinise, one of the social workers, said their action followed the premier’s lack of response to a memorandum of grievances they handed over in March detailing their concerns about how unemployed social workers were treated.

Matinise said being the only graduate in her family, everyone expected her to bring change for the better.

We have appealed to Social Development, but we see no change.

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She said they have been receiving four-month contracts at a rate of R6 000 per month, and it was not enough to care for their families.

Phumlile Dlamini has been without a job since graduating in 2018.

It is heartbreaking because we thought that when we were given sponsorship (to study), the department would absorb us after graduation,” she said. “With all the existing social ills, it is puzzling that the government would allow the skill to go to waste. Instead, the government is focusing on social grants instead of empowering people. It is creating too much dependency.

She said the Premier’s Office and the Department of Social Development needed to unpack a decent action plan regarding the resolutions towards addressing the unemployment plight of the social workers.

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The Premier’s Office referred The Witness to the KZN Social Development Department for comment.

Social Development Department spokesperson Mhlaba Memela acknowledged the “challenges” faced by the unemployed social workers.

He said the issue was concerning given an individual’s family background.

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Some of them are from disadvantaged families and I think the government should have made a plan on how these social workers would be absorbed into the system after graduation. The MEC has been pushing for the involvement of the departments of education, police, health, and correctional services to come together and get involved in devising plans to employ social workers.

“Non-Profit Organisations are reluctant to employ social workers and these are some of the issues we are dealing with when it comes to social work employment,” Memela added.

The Public Servants Association (PSA) said it has been appealing to the government to do away with austerity measures on filling positions.

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PSA provincial manager Mlungisi Ndlovu said the austerity measures have led to unemployed doctors, nurses, and now social workers.

We recently had an issue with unemployed nurses and doctors because the government failed to prioritise its funding. We promote good governance and we are not politically aligned so it is embarrassing that these social workers camp here and no senior official is coming out to address them. All we hear from those who speak to us is that there is no money.

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