Stakeholders in the social service sector have described as grossly inadequate the 8,429 personnel operating in the sector in Nigeria.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) child protection specialist, Maryam Enyiazu, at a-two day media dialogue on ‘Social Welfare Professionalisation Bill’ in Enugu State, gave an overview of challenges confronting the system.
To fill the huge human resource gaps, she advocated concerted efforts by all concerned. Enyiazu hinted that in 2014, Nigeria lost $8.9 billion, representing 1.58 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to violence against children.
She added that the country needed strong, regulated and standardised social welfare workforce to thoroughly tackle social problems and prevent the huge loss to violence against children and the vulnerable.Her words: “Nigeria is yet to realise the need for social welfare workers in the country; the sector struggles to attract, pay and retain qualified workforce.”She identified poor funding and lack of regulation as key factors militating against social welfare workforce.
The UNICEF expert, however, noted that the social welfare workforce was critical to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).“The services of social welfare workers improve the lives of children and families by addressing, education, health, justice, migration and protection from violence,” she added.Head, Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information, Mr. Olumide Osanyipeju, in his address, lamented that the profession was characterised by low pay and unsatisfactory work conditions.
According to UNICEF Head of Enugu Office, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh, the bill for the professionalisation of social work in Nigeria seeks to establish a regulatory legal framework to improve the standard of practice for those involved.
According to him, there could not have been a better time for this, as the country contends with some socio-economic challenges that continue to undermine sustainable development for vulnerable children and families.
“Issues of high prevalence of violence against children, conflicts, terrorism, high number of out-of-school children, as well as unemployment, no doubt, highlight the importance of overhauling the social work profession in Nigeria to enable it play its critical role of supporting the vulnerable population,” he added.