UNICEF and Government of Viet Nam recommend urgent development of social work in Viet Nam to help country deal with social impact of modernisation


Vietnamese youthDa Nang, 3 November 2009 – On 3 and 4 November, approximately 250 senior Government officials, academics and social work practitioners are meeting at a high-level Conference to discuss the importance of developing Social Work as a profession in Viet Nam. The Vietnamese Government, led by Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) and Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), in partnership with the United Nations and various international NGOs, civil society organizations and national and international universities, will be looking at how to improve social work education at various levels, how to integrate social workers in the Government structure and how to enhance social work services in Viet Nam.

For years the Vietnamese society was able to support its fellow citizens and children to cope with negative shocks in life. Mass organizations, such as the Women’s and Youth Unions and community collaborators have done an incredible job to care for those unable to care for themselves. However, the magnitude of the social impact of modernisation cannot be underestimated and experience from other countries has shown that adequate and sustainable support cannot be attained without a system of professional social workers. Economic reform, industrialization and globalization have gone hand-in-hand with migration, family breakdowns, economic and social disparities and increased pressure on communities, families and individuals. As a consequence social problems such as drug abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking and domestic violence have increased.

Professional Social Work will identify persons in need of support and special protection, help and refer them to relevant social services. It will help protect vulnerable groups and children from exploitation, violence, abuse and neglect and support their recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. Social workers will form an important coordination mechanism between hospitals, support groups, schools, police, and the wider community in their responses to the needs of various groups of people. They will furthermore play a role in community development, social research and the development of social policies.

“Viet Nam has already taken a major step in recognising Social Work as a training discipline at university level, which bore its first fruits this year with the graduation of the first batch of students with a Bachelor Degree in Social Work. I congratulate the Government of Viet Nam on this. It is now time for further steps, such as developing a specific job code and designated Social Work positions in a number of agencies and organizations, and to develop systems of Social Work services,” says Jesper Morch, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam.

Social Work is relevant to many child protection issues such as achieving a functioning alternative care system, combating child trafficking, supporting children in contact with the law, children with disabilities, and children affected by HIV and AIDS.

Social workers need to have the necessary values, knowledge and skills to effectively and appropriately respond to the need of vulnerable people, children and families. An adequate system of Social Work needs personnel at graduate and post-graduate level as well as para-professionals, in particular in the short and medium term. In developing Social Work in Viet Nam, it is therefore critical to recognize the role mass organizations and collaborators play and to develop appropriate training plans for the para-professional forms of ‘Social Work’.

The Conference and Symposium aim to raise awareness and commitment among policy-makers and implementers to support the professionalization of Social Work in Viet Nam, which includes job codes and positions within various Government structures, professional standards of practice, and improved education at graduate, post-graduate and vocational levels.

“The development of social work plays an important role in the current context of Vietnam. With the development of social work Vietnam is able to alleviate poverty, address effectively social problems, promote greater social justice and equality, and respond to other complicated problems that Viet Nam faces. There is an urgent need to develop social work as a profession. The positions of specialized social workers should be recognized in the relevant agencies and organizations, and there should be job code as well as a system of social service delivery,” affirms Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

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