Vosloorus - Government has put in place a strategy to recruit and retain more social workers in the public sector.
Part of the strategy deals with offering bursaries to entice students into the profession, improving the working conditions of social workers and improving their levels of remuneration.
"In the current financial year, we have allocated R105 million to the social work bursary scheme and this amount has been increased to R210 million for in the 2009/10 financial year. There are currently 3 529 students on the departmental scholarship programme," said Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya on Tuesday,
The minister noted that the country had not been able to produce quality social workers and social service professionals at the rate that matched the needs of communities.
"This is one of the urgent concerns that we need to address by engaging with academic institutions offering social work qualifications.
"At the same time, we need to ensure that social work education and practical skills are constantly informed by the changing demands of practice, and that practice is evidence-based," Mr Skweyiya said.
He further noted that the biggest challenges facing the sector were the over reliance on social work professionals in the provision of social welfare, which has resulted in huge backlogs in service delivery.
To address this challenge, the department has embarked on a process to recognise and professionalise other categories of social services including auxillary work, probation, child and youth care work as well as community development work.
The full utilisation of professionals in these categories will ease the workload on social workers and enable them to concentrate on developmental services.
According to the department, skilled social workers are a scarce resource and many professionals migrate to other countries in search of more lucrative salaries.