Creating safe professional spaces: Regulation of Child and Youth Care
When the Social Work Amendment Act of 1998, was passed to transfer the then SA Interim Council for Social Work into the South African Council for Social Service professions, it paved the way for the child and youth care field to realize its long held vision of establishing an autonomous statutory regulatory body for child and youth care.
Child and youth care now stands on the cusp of establishing a professional board for child and youth care. To make this a reality, the assistance and active participation of all child and youth care workers in the process of electing and appointing the Professional board for Child and Youth Care is required.
My contribution to this conference today is to explain the process followed thus far, to indicate to you what lies ahead and to indicate to you what role you can play to ensure its success. To achieve this objective, I would also endeavour to answer some common questions that you might have, as well as some questions from the floor.
Route of the professions
Child and youth care, like other social service occupations such as social work, in order to achieve its objective of rendering its specific services to those in need that it elected to follow the route of the professions, in other words, to be professionalised.
Following this route means that child and youth care in South Africa would be developed into a profession which fully meets the requirements of a profession. Within the framework of a profession, it means that no longer could the work that a person does simply be a job sometimes performed by people with a general or cursory knowledge, interest or background of the field. It would entail that the occupation and its practitioners would be professionalised, which in turn entails that standards and criteria would be prescribed for the education and training of practitioners, specific criteria would be set for practising in the field, the specific field would be defined and demarcated, registration with a statutory professional body would be compulsory, and adherence to an ethical code would be compulsory.
In other words, for an occupation to be regarded as a profession and specific for child and youth care to be regarded as a profession, it should meet certain criteria some of which are the following:
A profession is service rendering oriented. A profession exists to meet particular needs of individuals, groups and communities. The rendering of a specific service is intrinsic to the profession. The service is not rendered to serve the interests of the profession or the members of the profession. The profession exists to serve the needs of others. Due to its caring function towards children and youth, there can be no doubt that child and youth care as an occupation, meets this requirement.
A profession has a specific knowledge base and practice. A profession is characterised by the fact that its practitioners should master a specific and extensive body of technical knowledge and skills in the form of concepts, theories and methods which are utilised in practice to render the specific service unique to the profession. To be a professional person is to learn to think in a particular way, in particular to exercise reason in making judgements about specific courses of action. The professional person who only masters technical information and knows concepts and theories, but who cannot make sound applications on good judgement, is not effective. Furthermore, continuing professional education, whether by formal study or self-study is an important requirement to which all members of a profession must adhere to maintain standards of competency. The existing literature on child and youth care as well as the availability of courses to qualify as child and youth care worker indicate that child and youth care as an occupation, meets this requirement. In this respect, the specific knowledge base and practice of child and youth care as practised in South Africa, are aptly recorded and presented in the educational programmes developed and presented by the NACCW and the Associations Journal Child & Youth Care.
A profession is regulated. For each profession certain specific registration or certification procedures exist, minimum standards for education and training (academic qualifications) of practitioners are prescribed, and acceptable professional conduct is prescribed and regulated by a statutory body specifically established for that purpose. Once the professional board for child and youth care is established, the necessary steps would be taken for child and youth care to be statutorily regulated and to meet this requirement.
It is fortunate that, under the guiding hand of the NACCW over the years, with the Association's stated mission of being an independent, non-profit organisation in South Africa which provides the professional training and infrastructure to promote healthy child and youth development and to improve standards of care and treatment for troubled children and youth at risk in family, community and residential group care settings, the movement of child and youth care in South Africa has already attended to and meets many of these requirements on a voluntary basis.
The process so far
The rendering of social services in South Africa takes place in terms of the Government's policy, the guidelines, principles and requirements which are to be found in documents such as the White Paper for Social Welfare drafted with input from all role players and accepted by Government in 1997.
With reference to the human resources required in rendering social services, the White Paper indicated that:
the human resource capacity needed to be significantly expanded through the utilisation of different categories of social welfare personnel;
an accreditation system had to be developed where necessary for all categories of welfare personnel, including child and youth care workers; and
the then South African Interim Council for Social Work was identified as the regulatory body concerned, with its terms of reference to be negotiated and amended if necessary (White Paper, 1997:33 and 35).
After consultations with a wide variety of role players and stakeholders, the Social Work Amendment Act , 1998, came into operation on 1 April 1999. This Act provided for the establishment of the South African Council for Social Service Professions (replacing the Interim Council) and the institution, under the auspices of the Council, of professional boards for the various social service professions.
The first SA Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) was launched on 8 June 1999, after the election and appointment of members. This occasion was heralded by the then Minister for Welfare and Population Development as the celebration of another milestone in the transformation of the welfare service professions and a significant first step paving the way for the registration of all social service professions.
One of the first objectives that the new Council started to deal with was the establishment of the professional boards for the various social service professions in terms of section 14A of the Social Service Professions Act, 1978. Therefore, two sets of draft regulations respectively providing for the procedure in which members of a professional board should be elected and appointed, and for the functioning of a professional board, applying to all boards, were compiled and furnished to the Department of Social Development for submission to the Minister of Social Development. The regulations were subsequently published in the Government Gazette for comments, after which certain changes were made and it was re-submitted for publication in the Gazette. Final Gazetting is awaited within a week for the regulations to take effect.
In a letter to the Council, dated 9 October 1996, the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers (NACCW) expressed its desire to establish a statutory body for child and youth care workers and subsequently officially entered into discussions with the Council about this matter. This lead to the NACCW applying to the Council to establish a professional board for child and youth care in November 2000 and the Council approving the application on 21 February 2001.
The acceptance by the Council of the NACCW's application to establish a professional board for child and youth care, meant that the SACSSP' s criteria to establish such a board, were met in that the application was made by practitioners from the profession under the auspices of a professional group or association (the NACCW) which:
is organised on a national level;
is representative of the practitioners;
indicated the number of its subscribed members;
demonstrated a willingness to function in collaboration with other social service professions and to be combined with another profession in one professional board if necessary;
furnished particulars of the current minimum
standards of education and training for the members of the
demonstrated a willingness to comply with the Council's general code of conduct; and
demonstrated the profession's value and that it meets the needs of individuals and communities.
The Council and the NACCW immediately started to deal with the necessary technical matters inter alia pertaining to the constitution of the board and the financial implications of establishing it, before the necessary regulations could be drawn up and submitted to the Department and Minister of Social Development, with the request to establish the board. The regulations were subsequently published in the Government Gazette for comments, after which certain changes were made and it was re-submitted for final publication in the Gazette.
This publication should take place within the next week, after which an election would be announced and nominations of candidates requested. It is planned that by the end of this year the Professional Board for Child and youth Care should be established simultaneously with the Professional Board for Social Work.
It should be pointed out that putting the mechanisms (regulations) in place to establish a professional board is a bureaucratic process requiring statutory measures involving role players outside the Council's control. In addition, thorough consultation has to take place before the necessary statutory action could be finalised. These factors can and in this instance did, cause delays in the completion of the process, which the Council could not control.
Before discussing the way ahead, the constitution of the Professional Board for Child and youth Care should receive the necessary attention.
Constitution of the Professional Board for
Child and Youth Care (PBYC)
During a process of consultation, it was agreed by the NACCW, SACSSP and role players that the PBCYC shall consist of the following members:
Five child and youth care workers nominated and elected by child and youth care workers.
Two persons appointed by the Minister from nominations by the community.
One child and youth care worker or a person involved in the education and training of child and youth care workers, elected by child and youth care workers from nominations by the child and youth care education and training institutions.
One child and youth care worker in the employ of a social development department in the provincial sphere of government, appointed by the Minister.
One person versed in law, appointed by the Minister.
One member of the Council, designated by the Council.
The term of office of the board would be five years.
The following important matters should be noted in relation to the constitution of the board:
Child and youth care workers wishing to participate in the election by nominating candidates, voting in the election and/or standing in this first election, would have to be members of the NACCW, with the voters list to be furnished to the Council by the NACCW before the closing date for nominations and before the election takes place. Prospective participants are therefore requested to ensure that their membership with the NACCW, are valid.
A circular with details about the election, and the necessary ballot papers, would be sent by post to all child and youth care workers whose names are on this voting list.
In addition to the members serving on the board, 3 child and youth care workers would also have to be nominated and elected by child and youth care workers as members of the Council.
The active participation of all child and youth care workers in the election is a prerequisite for a successful board to be constituted.
After completion of the election and appointment of members, the board will be instituted, the first meeting would take place and the Minister would be requested to appoint the board's chairperson and vice-chairperson from nominations by the members of the board. The Professional Board for Child and Youth Care would then be able to commence with its responsibility of regulating the profession of child and youth care.
The way ahead
A specific act, the Social Service Professions Act, 1978 (Act 110 of 1978) provides for the establishment of the SACSSP and sets the guidelines within which the Council and its professional boards can and must function. These guidelines are determined by Parliament.
With reference to its functions and objects, the Council as umbrella body, has in terms of section 3 of the above named Act an overhead and coordinating regulating responsibility pertaining to all the professions and professional boards under its auspices. The Council's functions and objects would be linked up with that of all professional boards, which would be more focused on the regulation of the profession concerned.
With reference to the functioning of statutory professional bodies such as the Council and its professional boards, the act concerned usually sets the requirements of what should happen, whilst regulations and rules made under the act indicate how and when it should happen.
Whereas the Act itself, makes provision for the regulation of all social service professions, the existing regulations and rules mainly apply to social work and not to other professions. However, in order to regulate the other professions, regulations and rules addressing the same issues as it applies to a specific social service profession will have to be drafted and officially accepted. Therefore, the immediate and main task and responsibility of the professional board for child and youth care to attend to, would be to see to the drafting of the required regulations and rules.
In accepting its responsibilities, the Professional Board for Child and Youth Care would have to attend to the drafting of the necessary regulations and rules applying to child and youth care and this profession's practitioners.
Regulations and rules pertaining inter alia to the following matters will have to be drafted in order for the board to be able to function properly:
Rules relating to the qualifications for registration as a child and youth care worker.
Regulations regarding the registration of child and youth care workers.
Regulations relating to the acts which especially pertain to the profession of child and youth care workers (scope of practice).
Code of ethics for child and youth care workers.
Rules relating to the acts or omissions of a child and youth care worker which shall constitute unprofessional or improper behaviour.
Regulations regarding disciplinary inquiries for child and youth care workers.
Regulations regarding the fees payable by child and youth care workers.
It would also attend to other important matters pertaining to the profession of child and youth care, such as the definition and demarcation of the profession, involvement with the SGB for Child and Youth Care and formulating policy for the practising of the profession.
In more practical terms, attention would inter alia be given to the following matters:
The board in conjunction with the SGB would determine the minimum qualifications required for a person to register as a child and youth care worker. Provision could be made for a limited time for a "Granny " clause to accommodate persons currently practising in the field who do not have the required qualification.
Registration of student practitioners
The board should attend to the question whether to register student practitioners and if so prescribe the conditions.
Categories of registration
The board should determine who must be registered and whether there should be different levels of practitioners registering as such.
Whether and if so, how youth work as a separate profession should be accommodated on the board.
The board should determine under which conditions the name of a child and youth care worker should be removed from the Register. For instance, for the non-payment of annual fees and as part of a disciplinary action.
Non practising child and youth care workers
The board should decide whether non practising child and youth care workers should be allowed to remain on the Register at the payment of a reduced annual fee.
In other words, the Professional Board for Child and
Youth Care would have to attend to the running of the business of the
profession and prescribing the conditions applying. This would not be
done in isolation but with the input from and communication with the
constituency. The necessary means of communication in the form of for
instance, the Council's or a separate Newsletter, circulars and the
electronic media would have to be utilised.
Presentation made at 14th Biennial Conference of the NACCW, Kimberley, 8 July 2002, by Dr. J. Lombard, Registrar, SACSS