Hanoi (VNA) – Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) shared experience and agreed on measures to promote the role of social work at the ASEAN Regional Conference on Strengthening Social Work, held virtually on April 16-28.

The conference was co-chaired by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) East Asia and Pacific Regional Office.

In his opening remarks, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Van Hoi said the Hanoi Declaration on strengthening social work towards a cohesive and responsive ASEAN Community adopted at the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits affirms the bloc’s commitments to enhancing the role of social work in society. He said the results of social work counseling has the power to stabilise the economy and society and ensure social welfare for all people, particularly vulnerable groups.

Hoi pointed out the significance of the human resources and financial issues to the development of the area of social work, while emphasising the need to boost collaboration among various sectors to expand the social works.

ASEAN enhances role of social work within the region hinh anh 1Vietnamese representatives at the ASEAN Regional Conference on Strengthening Social Work (Photo: VNA)

The Regional Conference features eight sessions, with focus sharpened on the role of social work in sectors, guidelines on the role of social work in agencies, percentage of social workers in countries, and regulations on social service providers in the future.

At the event, ASEAN member states shared experience and viewpoints on social work as well as identified strategic actions in each priority.

Vietnam has seen positive changes in social work, Hoi said, adding the social work development programme slated for 2021-2030 was issued by the Government on January 22, 2021 with the goal of improving social services across all sectors.

The programme sets out eight missions and measures, including a legal framework, developing a network of service providers, raising public awareness, and enhancing international collaboration.

The Ha Noi Declaration on Strengthening Social Work Towards Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN Community was adopted in November 2020 by the Heads of State of ASEAN countries in Ha Noi, Viet Nam. The first of its kind in the region, the Declaration commits the ASEAN member states to invest in the social service workforce and the social service system by professionalising, planning for and expanding the workforce.

This Declaration is a result of a 2019 mapping and assessment project conducted by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance in collaboration with the UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office. The project was entitled the State of the Social Service Workforce in the East Asia and Pacific Region: A multi-country review. It is a part of UNICEF’s broader commitment to strengthening the social service workforce, as outlined in its current strategic plan and the Guidelines to Strengthen the Social Service Workforce for Child Protection.

Conducted in 15 countries in the region, the review determined the size, scope and structure of the social service workforce. It also included previous and current efforts to strengthen the workforce through policy development, legislative reform, education, and steps to strengthen the child protection system. The intent of the report was to inform advocacy, legal, policy and strategy development, and investment for strengthening the social service workforce. During the process, the Alliance and UNICEF helped convene national stakeholders in the data collection process as well as determining and implementing next steps. A regional planning meeting was held in October 2019 that involved the Alliance and UNICEF and laid the groundwork for this Declaration.

The Declaration lays out 11 steps and goals toward strengthening the social service workforce:

1. Develop and strengthen legislation and policies including defining, reinforcing and enhancing the roles and functions of social service workers

2.  Develop a strategic plan for the progressive strengthening of social service work, based on an assessment of needs and current social service system capacities and a multidisciplinary, inclusive and participatory approach

3.  Adopt, standardise and strengthen accreditation, certification, registration and licensing systems for social service workers

4.  Enhance inter-agency coordination at the national level, and cross-sectoral collaboration at the ASEAN level, between social welfare and other sectors

5.  Promote the establishment of national associations or councils for the profession

6. Promote retention through the provision of career progression opportunities and professional development

7. Allocate adequate resources to strengthen the profession, including financing for education, training, research and publications

8.  Develop and enhance regional networks

9. Work towards regional professional recognition of social work, render necessary assistance to narrow social work education gaps among ASEAN member states, and develop regional professional and occupational standards and ethics, standardised competency frameworks, standards/core curriculum and guidelines for supervision

10.  At the national and regional level, endeavour to develop strategies to enhance positive public perception of the profession and workforce including in the media

11.  Undertake cross-sectoral and inter-pillar cooperation across the ASEAN Community./.