The Social Service Workforce, the Wheels to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

By Jennifer Kaberi

The Sustainable Development Goals have just clocked three years, since the launch of the goals a lot of strategies have been put in place to ensure that they are a reality.  The 17 goals summarized in the following chat aspire for a prosperous, peaceful and sustainable planet.


This will not be possible if over 1,000,000,000,000 children experience violence every year, over 3,000,000 girls are married before age of 18 years annually in sub Saharan Africa and 40% of all children in Kenya have experienced some form of abuse. The World Health Organization developed a 7 strategy to end violence against children to achieve SDG 16.2, as illustrated below.


The seven strategies are meant to ensure that children who are the Sustainable in the Sustainable Development Goals are not only protected but also thrive. However the implementation of the strategies will not be possible without a strong response and support services as indicated in strategy 6 of INSPIRE.


The reality is that most countries are still lagging behind in this aspect, according to a report by Global Social Workforce Alliance, there is inadequate quantity and quality of social service workers to respond and support children victims of violence. Social service workforce are

Paid and unpaid, governmental and nongovernmental professionals and paraprofessionals working to ensure the healthy development and well-being of children and families. The social service workforce focuses on preventative, responsive and promotive programs that support families and children in our communities by alleviating poverty, reducing discrimination, facilitating access to needed services, promoting social justice and preventing and responding to violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and family separation.


A social service system is understood as a system of interventions, programs and benefits that are provided by government, civil society and community actors to address both the social welfare and protection of vulnerable populations.


To ensure that there is a strong social service workforce, the government and all stakeholders need to respond to several needs as seen in the chart below adopted from the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance.


What does this mean?

Planning entails as deliberate and systematic adoption of strategic approaches for the human resource that works with and for children. It includes mapping and identifying the gaps and working towards filling this gaps at the different levels of the system.  Most often anchored on the foundation of laws and policies that establish legal mandates and ensure appropriate governance structures and processes to implement them. Effective planning of the workforce requires not only a regulatory framework but also an understanding of the current workforce and a projection of future need, as well as engaging the workers in the planning and change process, this include resource allocation to hire and train more workforce.

Developing the workforce entails, taking steps to ensure that the social service workforce has the skills, tools and qualification to respond to the needs of children and other vulnerable groups. It includes development of standard curriculums for the different type and cadres of the workforce. Continuous training of the workforce to update them on the current changes of in the industry, the training should include practical and field work for the learners. In addition the training should be certified that allows learners to be recognized as professionals. Development also entails exposing the learners to other countries ways of working.


Supporting the workforce, this entails working along the workforce to ensure that they have policies, tools and are organized to be able to work with children. It also involves supportive supervisory visits, motivation and reduced workload

Then what is the role of the social service workforce in ending violence against children? As mentioned earlier that children are the core to sustainable development goals, but children are being violated every day.  To achieve the goals, we need to end violence against children and ensure they thrive, as well as support their access to justice and quality care, it is imperative to have an effective in ending violence against children.


Social workforce are the wheels that takes response services to children in need in terms of Social services. They are in the front-line in identifying, preventing and protecting violence against children. In times of adversity, vulnerable children and their families may be exposed to circumstances that threaten their individual and collective survival and sense of well-being. A loss of a job, war, poverty, illness or death of a caregiver, a flood, family separation or other types of crises may overwhelm even the most resilient. These situations can have an enormous impact on children’s immediate and long-term development. When support systems people count on unravel, it is important to have coordinated and effective child protection systems including the right number of well-trained and supported workers engaged in the right locations.

According to Unicef the following are the indicators for social workforce

  • Nationwide mapping of Social Service Workforce carried out
  • Number of social service workers with responsibility for child protection per 100,000 children, according to type (cadre; governmental and non-governmental) • Vacancy rates of government social service workforce positions by cadre
  • Professional associations recognized by the national government as legitimate and legally approved
  • Publicly disseminated professional codes of ethics and licensing regulations for each SSW cadre

However, most countries lag behind on social service workforce strengthening, with the ratio of social service worker to population in most countries being more than 1:10,0000 as seen below,



In addition most social workforce are poorly compensated thus compromising the quality of work and the commitment among the social service workforce in the lower cadres. Hence need social workforce strengthening.

Jennifer Kaberi, is an Ambassador of the Global Social Service Workforce and founder of

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