ASHGABAT (TCA) — Development of community-based social services and social work profession in Turkmenistan was discussed at a workshop convened by UNICEF on April 26 with partners representing key government sectors working in health, education and social protection, Parliament, National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights, civil society based organizations, academia and a team of international experts from ‘Partnership for Every Child’ Consulting Group.
Since 2016 UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and other partners towards introduction of social work profession and family-support services for children. The body of evidence, generated over the years, such as, Review of the situation of children under three years old in institutional care (2013), Assessment of social services (2015), Situation analysis of the boys and girls with disabilities (2015) helped gain a better understanding about the life’s challenges that families and children experience, and resources existing within national support systems. Government’s ongoing efforts to align national legislation and normative base related to children’s well-being with the international standards provide good foundations to roll out social work practice in the country. Besides policy changes, integrated interventions at local level in health and education services for families with children with disabilities have already been introduced in select pilot sites.
“We, at United Nations, recognize that social work professional services can contribute to the achievement of country’s long-term goals of accelerating the growth and economic diversification while leaving no one behind. Development of social services is also central to the attainment of all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to benefit all vulnerable children, people with disabilities and other groups at need,” emphasized Elena Panova, the UN Resident Coordinator in her welcome speech.
The team of international experts engaged the participants of the workshop on progressive international practice, guiding principles and lessons learnt in the area of social work. The participants explored that the span of development and introduction of social work services is a long-term process, which takes up to 10 years and requires consistent financial investments, intensive capacity development of professional cadres and institutionalisation of standards and practices in systems. Given that Turkmenistan is at the early stage of establishment of social work and family support services, it gives a unique opportunity to establish tailored and specialized social service system based on the country’s needs, positive family oriented traditions and its upper middle income status. This will in turn create potential to address equity gaps and enhance living standards for all, including the most vulnerable children and families.
“Today’s workshop demonstrated collaborative approach to work towards making inclusive and specialized social services at community level for all vulnerable families a reality. The ownership of the government is very promising and is a step towards realization of the rights of all children in Turkmenistan,” said Ms. Shaheen Nilofer, UNICEF Representative in Turkmenistan.
The further steps include operationalization of the social work curriculum for Universities, design of standards for future social work professionals, endorsement of the Action Plan for the development of social services for children and families for 2018-2028.