Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail – Bernama file photo

KUALA LUMPUR; Shortage of social workers is one of the factors attributing to inefficient management of efforts to address social problems in the country, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

She said one of the reasons was the current shortage of staff at the Social Welfare Department (JKM).

Citing a study by the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU),  she said the social worker-population ration in Malaysia is 1: 8,576 people.

“The ratio is huge if compared to other countries, like the United States (1:490), Australia (1:1,040), United Kingdom (1:3,025) and our neighbour, Singapore (1:3,448), she told the Dewan Rakyat sitting today.

She said the JKM staff, already short in number, also have to carry out tasks outside the scope of their job, hence affecting their efficiency and competence in handling social protection.

She was responding to an original question by Maria Chin Abdullah (PH-Petaling Jaya) who wanted to know if the ministry would study the effectiveness of the social protection system under JKM after  a United Nations Special Rapporteur claimed it as being  “fragmented’ and with not enough social workers.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said efforts were being made by the ministry to enable JKM to focus on social work tasks, namely case management to target groups.

Among them are the implementation of the Social Work Profession Act, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament in December, she added.

“To address the problem on shortage of social workers, the ministry has begun discussions with the Public Service Department (PSD) to resolve the matter,  while increasing collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in ensuring the target group receives appropriate protection,” she said.

Dr Wan Azizah said the Cabinet, during a meeting last May, also agreed that the Malaysian Social Protection Council (MySPC), set up in 2016, be reactivated as the main body in the coordination of policies and programmes on social protection.

She said a Technical Committee on Social Protection had been set up under MySPC  to coordinate four working committees, whereby the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had been given the mandate to lead the Social Aid Working Committee.

According to Dr Wan Azizah, MySPC will convene a meeting on Dec 3 to discuss the draft of the National Social Protection Master Plan and the proposal to establish a  Social Protection National Data Base System.

On the UN Special Rapporteur on social protection system in Malaysia as being ‘ fragmented ‘, Dr Wan Azizah said it was referring to at least 110 social protection programmes in Malaysia which were carried out by 20 ministries and agencies, not only those under JKM.

“Out of these 110 social protection programmes, only 11 welfare assistance come under JKM’s jurisdiction,” she added.

Meanwhile, met by reporters at the Parliament lobby, Dr Wan Azizah said it was time for Malaysia to have a law regulating social workers in the country like other professions such as doctors and lawyers.

She said despite social work having been carried out in the country for more than 60 years, there was still no law protecting social workers.

The law would also serve to regulate the profession by registering and certifying social workers’ practices, setting standards of practice and promoting the social development of the workers. – Bernama