Professional Declaration Ceremony for Graduated Social Workers
It is a privilege to be here today to witness your Declaration Ceremony.
I was filled with pride when I watched you take the pledge.
The orientation programme you have completed has covered everything about your new home, from the legislation, policies and foster care sides of child care and protection, all the way to substance abuse and poverty.
To better understand the common themes and approaches affecting your work you have listened to presentations around social work policies, ethics and conduct, as well as social crime prevention.
This orientation programme is part of our broader social work programme of excellence, which is an attempt to deepen the level of professionalism within our social work component.
This has proven successful to the point that we are now widening the reach of this programme to include other professionals within social services.
All social services professions need to understand fully what it means to be a public servant and the rights and responsibilities that come with that.
However, many of the challenges you will face as social workers are going to be unique to your profession.
You have spent years studying and you have completed the orientation programme, but you are going into a very tough environment out there in our province and our country.
The social fabric of our society has been torn open by a cycle of violence, sexual abuse, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs and a general breakdown of the family unit.
We read every day about babies being dumped or murdered by mothers who were themselves dumped by the baby's father a few months before, about children that have been raped and abused and about families torn apart by the abuse of alcohol and other drugs.
For many people reading about these horrors that afflict our society is bad enough, but you are actually going to be right there, dealing with them firsthand.
I would like to give you some advice that can help you stay strong and healthy.
Firstly, keep referring to your professional declaration; it will help you make the difficult decisions you need to make.
The words in that declaration, like "integrity, objectivity, human rights, social justice, inherent worth and dignity, Batho-Pele principles, ethical conduct and professional excellence", these are the qualities that will carry you through the difficult times.
If you do this it will be more difficult for reality to challenge your commitment and your passion to your calling.
Secondly, make use of the Careways service, which falls under the permanent employee assistance programme.
Careways is there specifically to help social workers deal with their own emotions and feelings.
If you call the Careways number, you will have a counsellor by your side within a day.
There are also scheduled sessions, or care groups, which all social workers should attend.
And be honest with yourself - you may think you can do it on your own, but let me tell you that after my first month as Minister I was traumatised - another baby dumped, a child raped, violence against women and children.
You need to stay healthy yourself so that you can handle stress.
Thirdly, I want to reiterate the importance of ethical behaviour, of confidentiality; sometimes people will tell you things they have told no one else and you need to give them the confidence that they can trust you and that you are there for them.
Fourthly, become the torch bearers of the Western Cape Government's vision.
When people are in desperate situations, when they are living in severe poverty or their lives have been torn apart by substance abuse, you need to be able to see and craft the opportunities in a resource-scarce environment.
Fifthly, you cannot afford to become cynical; we want you to keep your youthful idealism for as long as possible and to be the hope and opportunity our people so desperately need.
Finally, although sometimes it will seem like no one appreciates your work, always remember that there are many of us that treasure your commitment to our country.
I wish you all the best for the future.
Cell: 084 233 3811