Malawi to have associations of social workers and counsellors

Government says it is in the process of facilitating the formation of two associations that will regulate the professions of social workers and counsellors in the country.

The move follows the increasing demand of these professionals in a number of interventions including an adult offender diversion program which seeks to redirect adults with petty crimes from undergoing the criminal justice system, according to an official in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare.

Speaking in an interview, Chief Social Welfare Officer in the ministry Enock Bonongwe said the associations, which will be ready by next year, will help to improve service delivery in the country.

“The formation of the association of counsellors is at advanced stage. It was registered with the Registrar General in 2008.  We are done with paperwork that will govern its operations and is ready for submission to the Ministry of Justice and Constitution Affairs for their input,” said Bonongwe.

He said the association will among other things state professional qualifications levels and code of conduct.

“The association will be a link between professionals and their clients. It will provide clear guidelines on how registered counsellors should carry their duties just as is the case with other professions,” said Bonongwe.

During a two day National Conference on Adult Offender Diversion organised by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe (CCJP Lilongwe) in Lilongwe, it was revealed that an association of social workers is also in the offing.

Head of Social Work Department at Catholic University Loveness Imaan said the association will also help regulate the social work profession which is currently unregulated.

“It will also classify them into various categories that will be universally accepted,” said Imaan.

The Catholic University, which offers degree programs in Social Work, has so far produced 350 social work graduates since 2010 but only a handful are practicing, according to Imaan.

“The challenge is that government and other players prefer to employ social workers trained in public institutions. We hope that this association will help create awareness among Malawians that social workers can assist in various adult and child offender diversion programs which currently are under staffed,” she said.

Commenting on Imaan’s sentiments at the same conference, Bonongwe said government has so far employed 60 graduates from Catholic University in its Social Cash Transfer Program but hopes to employ more Para Social Workers for the adult offender diversion program.

“We are planning on having Para Social Workers to support the adult offender diversion program but we will have to assess the suitable qualification for the post,” said Bonongwe.

Regional Prosecution Officer (RPO) for Central Region Police, Levison Mangani, during the conference said in his presentation that there is need to increase counsellors and social workers if the program is to be expanded national wide.

“Police formations involved in the programme within Lilongwe are 43 and the initial 36 Social Workers could not adequately cover these areas. The number of Social Workers had to be increased to about 50. Some Social Workers were given more than two Police formations to attend to according to distances and demand of work,” said Mangani.

The two associations once operation will greatly help in ensuring successful implementation of adult offender diversion components such as reparation, counselling, Service to the community, Pre-Trail Service, Victim Offender Mediation (VOM) and Family Group Conference (FGC).

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