Recognition where it is due
In Thailand, as in many other places in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical role social workers play in supporting the most vulnerable children, families and communities.
Violence against children is widespread in Thailand, with 58 per cent of children under 14 facing physical and psychological punishment at home according to the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 6) by the National Statistical Office and UNICEF. Many cases go unreported, and the situation has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic with children remaining at home and isolated from support.
As we plan to celebrate World Social Work Day on 16 March 2022, we should reflect on the role the social services workforce has played over the past 2 years, and imagine a future where this workforce is more empowered, better resourced, and duly recognized for their lifesaving work. Take a moment and join the cause! Let's invest in our social services workforce!
A strategic investment in social services
With only four social workers for every 100,000 people in Thailand, the urgency for supporting overworked and under-resourced social workers in their case management role is more acute than ever. In Bangkok Regional Health 8th Office, the Thai Ministry of Public Health and UNICEF launched Primero in Udon Thani Provincial hospital. With Primero, social workers will be able to better respond to cases of violence, abuse and neglect by providing timely and quality support to vulnerable children and families. Case management involves working with children and families to plan, process and monitor services and support for vulnerable children in need of care and protection. This involves navigating through a complicated and often disconnected set of services and support available within and outside of the hospital.
Primero will support social workers in the Udon Thani Provincial hospital in their case management role by moving documenting processes online and linking them with the hospital’s information system on patients and services. This will ensure case management processes are more efficient than in the slower, paper-based system and can meet the needs of children more fully, so children can be better protected and families better supported.
“The Ministry of Public Health aims to improve the child protection system to better protect against violence, sexual abuse and exploitation. The Primero platform will help integrate services available within the ministry and between the ministry and other agencies,” said Dr. Paramet Kingko, Director of the Regional Health 8th Office.
“Primero will help improve Thailand’s child protection system. The platform, which facilitates case management, will not only support referrals and transfers of children in need of protection but also help monitor, identify and assess those facing risks. This platform can be readily applied to facilitate the new normal and ways of working during and after COVID-19,” said Dr. Chanvit Tharathep, former Inspector General of the Regional Health 8th Office, who initiated the collaboration between the ministry and UNICEF.
Leaving no one behind
This year's World Social Work Day, which will be celebrated all across the world, carries the theme: 'Co-building a New Eco-Social World: Leaving No One Behind'. The theme presents a vision and action plan to create new global values, policies and practices that develop trust, security and confidence for all people and the sustainability of the planet. World Social Work Day 2022 will be a highlight opportunity for the social work profession to engage all social work networks and the community they work within to make contributions to the values and principles which enable all people to have their dignity respected through shared futures.
"No child should live in fear or be left behind."
Kyungsun Kim, UNICEF Representative for Thailand
Primero supports this plan of action. Among the many challenges that social workers face, not having sufficient resources or fit-for-purpose tools are often cited among the most critical. But there are other issues that we also need to shine a light on, including investing more in social workers themselves. Providing professional growth and training opportunities, legal status and accreditation, and ensuring that social workers receive the recognition they deserve are all important factors in strengthening the workforce.
Just as Thailand continues to invest in its social workers, Primero will continue to work with these champions for children and invest in this shared vision. The Thailand Ministry of Public Health and UNICEF plan to expand the adoption of Primero to other hospitals in the country, so that every child who has faced violence, abuse and neglect can receive comprehensive services, delivered through an efficient, child-centred case management process. The planned scale up to other hospitals will help more children across Thailand receive efficient and comprehensive social services as well as care and protection.