A national programme on development of social work as a profession has shown initial results after four years of implementation, but still faces obstacles in human resources and legal framework.

At a conference in the central city of Da Nang on august 1, delegates discussed the programme, which had been approved by the Prime Minister in 2010. It was launched to improve and provide better services and care for vulnerable people including the elderly, people with disabilities, underprivileged children, HIV infected, drug addicts, people with mental illnesses and disorders and others.

Speaking at the event, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Trong Dam said that Vietnam had so far built 30 social service centres and trained 35,000 social workers after launching the programme.

"It is a great effort by agencies and support from international organisations over the past few years. We have surpassed the initial target of establishing 10 social service centres by 2015," Dam said.

"Social service centres have actively provided heath care and education for vulnerable sections and helped them integrate into the society," he said.

He added that the programme still had challenges and was deficient in the legal framework and treatment of freelancers and social workers.

Chairperson of the Vocational Training and Social Activities Association Nguyen Thi Hang said 80 percent of social workers had yet to be trained professionally.

"We estimate that around 40 percent of the country's population, equivalent to 36 million people, need social service. It is a challenge for Vietnam in speeding up human training at social colleges and universities," Hang said.

"The Government should create more favourable conditions including tax, land and establishment procedures to further develop private social service and human training centres."

Acting representative of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Jesper Moller said there had been commitments from different ministries after four years of launching the programme.

He said many achievements emerged from the programme, but the government should improve the law and licence process for social workers along with the social service profession as a whole.

According to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Vietnam has 9 million elderly, 6.7 million with disabilities, 1.5 million underprivileged children and 2.7 million people who live under social protection subsidised by the State.

However, the country has only 6,400 civil servants working in social service centres. Around 40 colleges and universities have trained 13,000 students in social service courses.-VNA