The Department of Social Development says that the critical shortage of social workers in the country has hit crisis levels and can no longer be ignored.

“I need to indicate that the shortage of social workers is now becoming a crisis that cannot be ignored anymore – especially with rising social ills in our country,” Social Development minister Lindiwe Zulu said in a written parliamentary reply this week.

“Our country is confronted with high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequalities. The scourge of gender-based violence is unbearable, we witness women and children being killed on a daily basis; substance abuse is on a rise, ravaging our children and loved ones, most painfully disintegrating families. All of us in this house are affected and, by extension, our families.”

The minister said that the shortage of social workers in the country not only impacts the government’s current backlog in processing things like foster care grants, but also on the provision of social welfare services and the socio-economic development of the country in general.

She said that when the government evaluated the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, it required more than 16,000 social workers to implement the provisions of the Act, which included foster care services.

“This was twelve years ago – and this excluded the implementation of other pieces of legislation in the area of substance abuse, victim empowerment, older persons, social crime prevention, persons living with disabilities, and so on,” Zulu said.

In August, Zulu told parliament that her department had tried to address the critical shortage of social workers in the country by setting up the Social Work Scholarship Programme.

However, beneficiaries of the programme have not been placed in the required roles due to budget constraints.

Between 2017 and 2022, the department has assisted 2,709 social workers in getting their qualifications. However, only 1,553 have been placed in the same period.

“We presented a joint bid to National Treasury on the 28 July 2022, which we are continuing to engage upon, and we should be coming up with a detailed plan very soon in terms of some proposals of how we believe government can employ additional social workers,” she said.

“While we celebrate when we employ social workers in some cases on a temporary basis, we would be better placed in absorbing social workers on a permanent basis given our high levels of unemployment.”

She said that she is engaging with the minister of finance on the matter, particularly to bring to light the under-allocation of funding to the social sector and for social workers, specifically.

What social workers get paid in South Africa

Salary tracking websites, PayScale, Indeed and place the average salary for a social worker in South Africa within a broad range of R188,000 to R300,000 per year.

A more official tracking of nursing salary data can be found through public service social worker salaries.

Like many other public service workers, social workers in South Africa have not benefited from massive salary hikes over the last two years, with the third year of negotiated wage agreements (2021) between unions and the government falling away to an incremental rise in pay.

Effective July 2021, public service workers saw only a 1.5% increase in salaries, with a small cash bonus offered to those on lower salary bands.

Among social workers, child and youth care workers remain the lowest paid at between R143,073 and R190,575 per year – or R11,900 to R15,900 per month.

The highest earners, meanwhile, are social work and community development managers, who can earn as much as R1.12 million a year (R93,000 per month).

The table below outlines some of the main nursing roles and their pay.

Role Salary Scale Minimum (lowest grade) Maximum (highest grade)
Child and Youth Care Worker 1 – 5 R143 073 R190 575
Child and Youth Care Team Leader 1 – 6 R190 575 R220 923
Assistant Community Developer 1 – 9 R143 073 R256 113
Social Auxiliary Worker 1 – 9 R150 438 R269 301
Child and Youth Care Supervisor 1 – 5 R202 176 R269 301
Community Developer 1 – 11 R220 923 R438 945
Community Development Supervisor 1 – 7 R369 258 R524 121
Social Worker 1 – 8 R261 456 R589 896
Community Policy Developer 1 – 11 R312 183 R589 896
Social Work Policy Developer 1 – 11 R369 258 R589 896
Community Development Assistant Manager 1 – 5 R494 037 R663 942
Social Work Supervisor 1 – 15 R389 991 R725 517
Social Work Manager / Policy Manager / Community Development Manager / Community Policy Manager 1 – 6 R806 811 R1 116 831

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