PRESS CONFERENCE BY  THE GHANA NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS (GASOW) ON THE REPORT BY THE COMMITTEE OF ENQUIRY INTO THE ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT OF CHILDREN IN THE OSU CHILDREN’S HOME AND BOYS REMAND AND PROBATION HOMES.

Mr. Chairman

Distinguished Personalities

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,

Ladies and Gentlemen;

I am happy to be here today and very proud to be associated with such a great occasion, on the occasion of annual conference of the Association of Social Workers.  ThanK you for inviting me to speak today.  I started my career as a social worker by training, so it is wonderful to have an opportunity to share my views about the role of social workers in nation building with you.  It is great to see so many upcoming social workers here today, as well as a number of you who have a wealth of experience and do so much good in our communities, our towns and cities.  It is a tough job, one that you often do in difficult circumstances, and with little recognition.

Mr. Chairman, as you are well aware, social work as a profession has evolved over the years as a mean of helping families, individuals, and institutions to survive.  The profession is committed to the pursuit of social justice, to the enhancement of the quality of life, and to the development of the full potential of each individual, group and community in the society.  The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being.

The profession seeks to address and resolve issues at every level of society and economic status, but especially among the poor and disenfranchised communities.  Thus, it is linked with the idea of charity work.

The settlement movement spearheaded by Jane Addams placed a lot of emphasis on advocacy and case work which became a central part of social work practice.  During the 20th century, the profession began to rely more on research and evidenced-based practice as it attempted to improve its professionalism.

The development of social work in Africa followed similar trends.  As you are well aware, most of Africa came under colonial rule at the point in its history.  Although Francophone, Anglophone, and Lusophone African countries inherited different legacies from their former colonial masters, emerged was geared towards addressing the needs of those working in the formal sector, especially, in colonial civil service.

The activities of missionaries from Europe and other parts of the world played a role in shaping the development of the profession.  Even though their primary role focused on addressing the religious and spiritual needs of Africans, by establishing schools, vocation training, and engaging in alms giving and community work, the missionaries functioned as informal social workers.

Mr. Chairman, today, social workers are involved in providing a variety of services such as case management, counseling, psychotherapy, human services management, policy formulation, community organization, philanthropy, and grassroots and advocacy.

Mr. Chairman, the Social  work profession is built on a Code of Ethics.  Within the code of ethics is enshrined the principles of: human dignity and worth; and social justice.  Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of every person and respect the human rights expressed in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Social Justice encompasses the satisfaction of basic need; fair access to services and benefits to achieve human potential; and recognition of individual and community rights.

These values and principles in the Code of Ethics provides guidance and direction in shaping the social worker’s role in nation building and national development.

Our country is relatively young.  Fifty years after attaining political independence from the British,, this country, like other African countries, is confronted with a number of fundamental challenges-the challenge of poverty, disease, malnutrition, employment, and a host of other challenges.  To be able to find meaningful resolution to the above challenges, there is the need for all sectors to come together to contribute to addressing this challenge.

To contribute meaningfully to national development, the social worker’s role should shift from functioning within the established order to a more critical focus where practioners are trained to question power and structures at both a macro and micro level.  This makes practitioners aware of their own position as social workers and challenges them to continually find better, more inclusive ways to influence policy and legislation.

Mr. Chairman, one dramatic change that will affect the role of the social worker and his/her contribution towards national development is the emergence of the information society.  This dramatic revolution forces us to reexamine the role of the social worker in national development against the backdrop of the way the profession has been practiced over the years.  Today’s knowledge economy based on ICT offers this country and the African continent a tremendous opportunity to leapfrog the earlier stages of development and to move swiftly and directly on to the world economic stage, with all of its benefits, and, of course, with all of its new problems that need attention.

Today, one can say with a fair degree of certainty that ICT is the only key that can open the doors of the new global economy and its benefits to us.  A nation unable to join this new economic order, unable to harness the power of ICT is effectively locked of the new global economy, and forced to remain a marginal player on the world economic stage.

Social workers, together with other sectors should search for new and better ways to harness the power of information technology (IT) to meet economic, social, educational and development objectives.

ICT cuts across all spheres of social work practice, direct social work practice, social advocacy, community organization, and policy formulation.  Social workers should use the technological tools of today, the Internet, electronic mail, chat rooms, discussion forums, and new internet 2 tools such as blogging, and podcasting to serve the needs of clients and institutions they serve.  Such tools could empower the broad majority of Ghanaians, build social cohesion, create economic prosperity, provide jobs, lead to the democratization of technological skills, address the digital divide, and contribute immensely to national development.

It is travelling on the technological highway that will lead to the creation of work and wealth, for our people; It is this travelling on the technological highway that will bring dignity and prosperity to Ghanaians; It is travelling on the technological highway that will bring equality and social justice to our people; It is this information highway that will lead to sustained economic growth and improved living standards for our people; and It is this information superhighway that will take them out of their technological cave and bring them economic salvation .We expect a new bread of IT social workers to emerge to lead us to the technological promise land.

Mr. Chairman distinguished ladies and gentlemen, today, we have become a global community. As such , our attempt at nation building should examine development in other parts of the world, a world that demands new knowledge, new thoughts, new frameworks for problem-solving, and new ways of caring for one another.  International social work has emerged to examine the evolution of social work and welfare systems in different countries.  To contribute to national development, social workers in Ghana should link up with their counterparts in other parts of the world to exchange information and best practices.

Mr.  Chairman, there is a saying that if a society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.  We need to channel our development efforts to all our people.  Thus we need a holistic approach to development, while focusing on the special needs of oppressed communities.

 

Mr.  Chairman, it has been said that the mark of a noble society is found not in the manner in which it helps the rich, but in how it helps the poor and the vulnerable.  Not in its virtues during good times, but in its character during hard times.  Not in how it protects the powerful, but how it defend the vulnerable. Through the activities of social workers, we can extend our intervention to the disenfranchised, to bring constructive change to this country.  We want them to remember your role in social advocacy, community development, in policy formulation and analysis, and in the realization of the dreams of our founding fathers.

The keys to move this country to the next level are in your hands; we want you to use the keys to unlock the gate of development.

We need all hands on deck.  As you know, a complete soccer team needs a goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders, and strikers.  We need policy makers to put in place the rights policies to facilitate the right climate for social worker; we need community-based organizations and grass-roots leaders who’ll be involved in working directly with different populations; fact is, everyone has a role to play in this crusade.

The legendry car maker, Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is a progress, and working together is success!”  Let us work together as a team, to bring home the trophy of hope and glory, and steer this country in the direction it must go.

The challenges of nation building are many.  Fifty three years after independence, we still have a long way to go.

To ensure sustained success at nation-building, Ghanaians regardless of ethnicity, political affiliation, gender, social class, and geographical locations need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that we need to build this nation together.  Nation-building does not occur naturally in any society.

I am confident that this nation will move forward to become an exemplary democracy.

Press Conference Speech Notes

With the finding of the committee for example that “ The Department of Social Welfare is under  staffed and under resourced as indicated in the staffing and  budget performance reviewed, there is  indeed a crisis in the provision of state welfare services that demands practical, urgent and workable solutions. The measures should be drastic and should include contemporary social work training, resourcing and practice needs. This is more so because it is an established fact in social work that when social agencies and facilities such as Homes are under-resourced and staffed practitioners are unable to meet the unique needs of the individual category of children under their care , set and maintain reasonable care  and support standards. Other implications   of the above scenario as confronting social workers in government agencies  also  includes but not limited to; excessive  case workloads which  can lead to workers making mistakes that harm  their clients . Child attendant ratios as well as caseworkers’ ratio to children is paramount to effective care and support.  It also has the potential of creating job burn-out characterized by emotional exhaustion, and feelings of diminished accomplishment. This is the sad situation that many of our members who are working in some of the state agencies providing care and support to the vulnerable are going through on daily basis in solving the many seemingly intractable social problems in the country. Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen of the Press ,the Department of Social Welfare  need a more realistic funding and  a holistic approach in dealing with the other  restrictive parameters that impacts the effectiveness of professional social workers at their disposal

It is not a question of lack of professional capacity of social workers in the Homes per se. Indeed it is refreshing to state that social work training in Ghana has been adjudged as  consistently meeting the required professional standards  to the extent that the national body is accorded representation at the world wide International Federation of social workers(IFSW). Today, professional social workers are occupying various positions in various settings and establishments in the country and impacting people of every age, background, and in every corner of the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen, whenever a child is deliberately neglected or abused  in any setting, there is inevitably great concern in case some important tell-tale sign has been missed. That is why upon watching the documentary the Association took steps to set up a committee to investigate the matter within the tenants of social work practice but had to stop and rather accepted the invitation by the Hon. Minister and for that matter the government to be part of the 11 member committee which also included 2 renown social work academics from the Institute of social work among other professionals.  Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in investigating   allegations of child abuse and neglect those of us who sit in ‘judgment’ often do so with the great benefit of hindsight. So as an Association some of whose members are implicated in the video footage we want to readily acknowledge social workers and other care workers who undertake the work of providing care and support to orphans and vulnerable children on behalf of us all. They deserve both our understanding and our support. It is a job which carries risks, because in every judgment they make, those staff have to balance the best interest of a child with that of the resources at their disposal particularly in the case of neglect. However, we are pleased that this Inquiry has been more than just a forensic exercise.

The Committee has been charged with looking forward and to make recommendations for “how such the allegations if found to be through may, as far as possible, be avoided in the future”. We  are in no doubt that effective support for children and families in Ghana cannot be achieved by a single agency acting alone. It depends on a number of agencies working well together. It is a multi-disciplinary task It is also not about the “absence of laws and social policies, it is about implementation”. The Ghana National Association of Social Workers is impressed with the in- depth  national and global perspectives  that the committee adopted in reviewing  the issues as presented in the video to arrived at the findings and  recommendations.

Of particular interest to the Association is the findings that ‘ the evidence points  to an atmosphere of child neglect due to dangerous infrastructure, limited supervision, insufficient staff to child ratio….”

On a recommendation for the possible establishment of a council/commission on social Work and Care in the country we find this most appropriate and timely and in keeping with global trend and if found to be feasible within our Ghana context and setting for the social work training and welfare provision will go  long way to enhance social welfare service delivery, staff training and  accountability  among others. The Association wish to assure the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare and for that matter the government our preparedness in whatever capacity in the implementation of the recommendations especially those that related to professional social work .We are also particularly pleased that  in addition to other documents reviewed, the committee managed to make time to review the Victoria Climbe Commission of Enquiry Report in the UK which is one of the most widely read report on child abuse and neglect   by social work practitioners ,researchers and academics and whose recommendations brought about  profound reforms in social care and social work training, certification and collaboration, discipline among others. It will does help immensely in tackling  the multiple levels of policy making, professional training  and the coordination of social work and welfare provision in Ghana. This from our analysis is the mixing link in social welfare and care service provision in state and non-state settings.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, since the  submission of the report, there has been plenty of discussion on the report from different angles including the human rights which  was to be expected but many are silence on other issues of concern to the committee; the children who have been stigmatized, the manner in  which some of the pictures were taken  by the volunteers some of whom we are told by our representative admitted in other countries ,particularly where they come from in which  state welfare and social work/care provisions are  well established the video itself would have been a subject of series of law  suits  from the Home, Children on their behalf and the staff against the principal investigator and his collaborators. The use of forced threats and coercion to obtain information for whatever purpose is globally unacceptable even in basic research work even if the end product is intended to bring about some reforms. We need as a country to move away from the notion that the ends justify the means even if the means has been found to be fraudulent and raise many questions than answers. We think it should be of interest to us all as a nation to know which pictures were taken by which volunteer, at what time, what the children were told to do and say and more importantly what rewards and/or punishment they were promised and threatened with The impact on some of the children being stigmatized and ridiculed at school cannot be comprehended by the team members or any other person since no one feel it like the persons who is going through it..It is in connection with this that the Association fully endorse the recommendation by the committee for further investigation into the dealings of one Antonio R. a volunteer who have some contacts with the Homes and the operations of his NGO(Skyoflove) in Ghana and the USA.

We wish to appeal to all to critically examine the findings of the committee and its recommendations within the bigger picture of the problem analysis that has bedeviled the State Provision of Social Welfare Services as vividly illustrated in the over 85 page report to enable us contribute to the implementation of the recommendations by the MESW when the plan is outlined.

Thanks you all for coming and may God bless us all as we re-dedicate ourselves to  course of child survival and development particularly those who  for  varied reasons and circumstances end up in residential Homes like the Children’s and Remand Homes across the country as a last resort. The provision and sustainability of care and support services provisions for these children will continue to be an increasingly important issue in resource-constrained countries like Ghana but we are of the view that if these recommendations as outlined by the committee are implemented as high ranking priority by the government, it will go a long way in the achievement of the better Ghana agenda for all including the vulnerable.

Thanks you for your attention.