WANTED More Social Workers
Social Workers

WANTED More Social Workers

Mar 13, 2023, 7:03 AM
James Veloso and Jai Duena

James Veloso and Jai Duena


With the lack of social workers impeding the delivery of social relief programs in Laguna province, 2nd District Representative Ruth Mariano-Hernandez seeks to entice more to enter into social service by raising their current living and professional standards.

With a poverty incidence at 6.9 percent, as of 2021 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Laguna province ranks third among provinces in Calabarzon.

Despite the fact that the province has experienced an economic boom in recent decades, that has failed to translate to uplifting the lives of Lagunenses, particularly in the eastern portion where the countryside has remained predominantly rural.

This is where the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has to step in with its various welfare programs to uplift the lives of needy Lagunenses.

The problem is, there isn’t enough manpower in Laguna province for the DSWD to effectively bring its programs to the poorest of the poor.

Large gap

Data obtained by OpinYon Laguna from the office of Rep. Ruth-Mariano Hernandez of the province's second district showed there are 117 social workers currently assigned for the whole province, including 16 detailed in the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO).

That meant a ratio of one social worker per 28,907 Lagunenses.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the distribution of social workers in the province has been poorly matched.

According to that data, most social workers in the province are concentrated on the first and second districts, which are, ironically, the more upscale areas in the province due to the concentration of industrial and residential hubs.

Calamba City topped the list with 30 assigned social workers, followed by the cities of Biñan with 12 social workers; Santa Rosa, eight, and San Pedro, six.

By contrast, many towns in the third and fourth district – the so-called “rural” areas of the province – have only one or two social workers assigned.

For instance, the provincial capital of Santa Cruz and the towns of Lumban, Majayjay, Nagcarlan, Pakil, Pangil, Pila, Rizal, Santa Maria and Victoria have only one social worker each assigned to them, while at least three municipalities – Paete, Famy, and Siniloan – have no assigned social worker at all.

“Actually, may batas tayo na dapat lahat ng bayan at lungsod sa Pilipinas ay dapat magkaroon ng at least one social worker, pero I don’t think na lahat [ng munisipalidad sa Pilipinas] ay meron talaga,” Representative Hernandez explained in an ambush interview with OpinYon Laguna last March 8.

Delivery of DSWD’s services

This unequal number of social workers in Laguna province has caused difficulties in the delivery of assistance to needy Lagunenses, Hernandez also pointed out during the interview.

As the solon has made social services one of her top priorities, she has seen the effects of the lack of proper people who will cater to the needs of underprivileged Lagunenses.

"Sa dami ng mga programa ng DSWD – and meron ngang mga programa sila na dine-devolve nila at the local level – kailangan talaga ng mga social workers na mag-iimplement ng mga programa na ito," she told OpinYon Laguna, adding that she often had to “borrow” social workers from other offices to comply with DSWD regulations on giving out assistance.

Enticing more to enter social work

One way Hernandez hopes to address this gap is to entice more people, especially the youth, to enter into the field of social services – not an easy task in a culture where such jobs are classified not as “professional” but simply volunteer work.

“Para sa akin, the government should value our social workers, since sila talaga ang implementing arm ng government na maiparamdam sa mga nangangailangan mamamayan na may gobyernong handing tumulong at sumuporta sa kanila,” the solon said.
“And to entice others to go to social work, na hindi naman ito basta volunteerism, kahit papaano may decent pay, at the end of the day bubuhayin din yung sarili niya.”

That attitude was also reflected in the fact that many social workers, not only in the province but also in the Philippines as well, are not permanent or regular employees.

“Others are on job order status, hence, [they are] not entitled to benefits under the present Magna Carta for Social Workers law,” Hernandez’s office said in a message to OpinYon Laguna.

Proposed measures

In order to raise the standard of living for social workers – and as a way of enticing more people to enter social services - Hernandez has filed House Bill6146, which will amend Republic Act 9433 or the current Magna Carta for Public Social Workers.

Under the bill, all registered social workers by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) regardless of position and title are considered public social workers.

These registered social workers in a government setting, whether regular or casual, and including those whose services are engaged through job orders or contracts of service will be covered by the bill.

The bill will also fix the salary grade of an entry-level junior officer public social worker to salary grade 13, with an equivalent salary of around P30,000.

Those covered by the bill will also be provided a hazard pay of at least 20 percent of the monthly salary regardless of the nature of activity conducted.

"Since professionalized na sila, dapat rin na nage-evolve na rin [ang salary grade] nila para ma-compensate mo sila ng tama," Hernandez pointed out.

Giving credit

Through raising the work conditions and professional standards of social workers, the solon hopes to give credit to the risks and challenges faced by social workers in the performance of their duties.

“Ang mga social worker naman natin, hindi parang office worker na nakaupo lagi sa airconditioned na lugar. Alam natin na sa trabaho nila, kailangan silang lumabas upang maghatid ng tulong sa sulok-sulok, at isama mo pa ang health risks na hinaharap nila,” she stressed.

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