Cambodia and ASEAN are hammering out a set of guidelines and principles to strengthen and systematise the roles of the workforce engaged in social services in the region to optimally promote the wellbeing of the most vulnerable populations.
A hybrid-format ASEAN Consultation was held to this end on July 14, organised by the Cambodian Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and attended by representatives of the bloc’s governments and civil society organisations.
Members of relevant technical working groups, key stakeholders and other participants discussed the draft ASEAN Regional Guidance on the Role of Social Workers in Social Protection (“ARGRSW”) and a handful of similar instruments, the ministry said.
These documents are designed to assist member states in the administration of the ASEAN Roadmap for the implementation of the Hanoi Declaration on Strengthening Social Work for Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN Community, it added.
Speaking at the July 14 event, Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth underscored that the social services workforce should comprise specialists and associated professionals from both government and NGOs who work with children, families and communities to ensure their welfare and development, united under a “collective vision”.
“The social services workforce plays an important role in supporting and improving the wellbeing of children and families, by identifying and managing risk, as well as facilitating access to support. It also ensures that they receive efficient and timely social services,” he said.
Soth shared that Cambodia’s past experiences have shown that at least two social workers or deputies thereof are required in each commune to guarantee adequate services.
He said that building up the social services workforce will catalyse efforts towards achieving the government’s strategic goals aimed at ensuring the people’s wellbeing and timely assistance for the most vulnerable.
The 10 ASEAN countries have made every effort to enhance the role of social workers, in a bid to strengthen and expand social protections, he said, adding that results of these ASEAN Consultations would be submitted to the bloc’s leaders at the ASEAN Summit in November, which Cambodia is due to host.
ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community deputy secretary-general Ekkaphab Phanthavong was confident in the consultation’s contributions towards the ARGRSW, saying that workers in the field are a major force behind social health in the region.
He expressed delight at the progress on the policy, and highlighted the need for specialists in social services who are dedicated to the protection of human rights and can provide the necessary assistance in a quality and effective way.
Research by the Global Social Services Workforce Alliance and UNICEF revealed that there were 1,551 social services teams in Cambodia in 2012, of which one-third worked at the national level and one-third had members who identified as women.
A recent study showed that there were 3,764 social work positions in the government, which meant there were 65 posts per 100,000 children.
UNICEF representative to Cambodia Foroogh Foyouzat hailed July 14’s ASEAN Consultation and the discussion on the country-specific situations related to the social workers as well as the development of regional guidelines and principles.
Emphasising the role of social workers in national development, she commented that the services they provide are designed to support the vulnerable, especially women and children.
On April 4, the social affairs ministry launched the “Strategic Plan on Social Services Workforce in Cambodia 2022-2031” to enhance the national and sub-national social services workforce, and shared a document on investment in social services.
The document, which includes guidelines on roles and responsibilities for officers in charge of social work in towns and districts, sought to increase the provision of social services, in a broader and more objective manner.