At some point in the past few months, the Government of Malta decided to amend the Social Work Profession Act. It was slightly outdated so hoorah! Unfortunately, the process itself wasn’t that…well…great.

As with any decision to change a law, people are going to complain. It’s difficult to appease everyone. But what we saw in the past few days was an uprising by local NGOs and professionals. Why? Because the proposed changes were bordering on the ridiculous.

First off, the definition of who a social worker is was going to be changed. Unfortunately, the proposed amendment was not the international definition – instead it was some made up definition which was not even discussed with the Maltese Association of Social Workers. You know, the actual organization which knows what the role is about. The good news is that the Government has agreed to change the definition. Though one has to wonder why it wasn’t done properly in the first place, especially when considering that other professionals do have their international definition in their legislation.

The second very big change was that all newly graduated social workers would have to work for two years with a state agency before they could apply for their warrant. This would ruin NGOs in the long run because they would end up with a shortage of social workers. And let’s face it, after two years within an agency, where you would have got used to the system, you’re not likely to leave that agency unless you’re going to continue studying for a Masters. Definitely not to go work at an NGO – which incidentally, would give you a lower wage, and less concrete hours.

Two points I’d like to make here:

  1. By working within an NGO, social workers are still serving the state. NGOs do the work that the government cannot afford to. Imagine if all the abuse rehab centres had to be taken care of by the government? And all children’s homes? And let’s not mention the fact that the state doesn’t actually have an agency which deals with LGBTI+ issues.
  2. When taking into consideration the lower wage, and less concrete hours when one works within an NGO – it begs the question why graduates are still preferring to work in NGOs instead of the state. Maybe the state should be reflecting on this aspect first before trying to force new social workers to work for them.

Thankfully, the Minister has said (after many complaints) that this clause will be stricken from the amendments – once again this should have been discussed first and foremost with the department of social wellbeing at the University, with the students themselves and with the association of social workers.

On a brighter note, some of the proposed amendments are needed, so I’m glad that the Act is being updated. I just wish the process had been more transparent and inclusive…before the Bill passed through its second reading.




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