Social work conference sees calls for standards, accountability

A two-day conference to examine standards for professional social work practice and ensure accountability, concluded on Thursday at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre.

The inaugural Guyana Professional Social Work Practitioners and Educators conference began on Wednesday, sparking discussion on the enactment of national  standards on the profession, out of the recognition of the need for ethics, accountability, and personal responsibility in order to keep at pace with international practices.

The convention was the result of a collaboration of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the University of Guyana (UG), the Guyana Association of Professional Social Workers (GAPSW), and the Ministry of Social Protection, to explore and implement ethical guidelines and standardised practices to further modernise social work practice. Heads of each organisation were present, including Professor Ivelaw Griffith, Vice-Chancellor of UG, and Marianne Flach, Unicef representative.

Speaking at the opening, Paulette Henry, the conference chairperson, stressed the importance of discussion of the “broad range of intersectionality of social work practice, education, administration, action, and mechanisms to hold social workers at every level, accountable.”

“For more than a century, our professionals have been performing social work roles. This says to me that indeed establishing standards for professional practice is long overdue,” stated Akilah Dorris, the president of the GAPSW.

Social work, a practice that includes those working as counsellors, educators, administrators, has been largely left untouched, absent of guidelines and a comprehensive model in which to follow. This absence of guidelines, according to Professor Griffith, must be filled with values of respect, integrity, and continued excellence.

The implemented guidelines and emphasis on values would allow social workers to move towards excellence, he contended.

Meanwhile, Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence also spoke at the opening and emphasised the need for quality service. “We must operate in a climate where all faces of our work and the service we provide are comprehensively standardised to provide for effective monitoring and continued evaluation so that irrespective of where we practice, our clients can be assured that they are receiving the same quality of service,” Lawrence said.

She further stated that with the application of standard operating procedures, those who are exceptional will be further recognised and rewarded.

“This here is to identify and have discussions with people both in the field and maybe outside the field, from all the many stakeholders and disciplines that deal with stakeholders and social service workers to examine where they are at, and where they need to be,” social worker Abdel Fudadin explained.

The conference marked the beginning of a process to introduce a social work regulatory body, ensuring that Guyana continues to excel and keep up to standard with the developed world.

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