The role of social workers in child protection must be strong

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THE child protection system without properly trained social workers has not been effective in protecting children’s rights. UNICEF says nine out of 10 children – or 45 million boys and girls – under the age of 14 are regularly subjected to violent discipline at home in Bangladesh. More than half of the girls, 51%, are married before becoming consenting adults. Millions of people living on the streets are out of school or trapped in dangerous work. Violent discipline, sexual abuse, child labor, child marriage and psychological punishment are widespread, putting millions of children at risk. A well-planned, trained and supported social service workforce is essential to identify these children and protect them from harm and abuse, but there are now only 3,000 social workers in Bangladesh while more than 100 000 workers are needed in Bangladesh to adequately meet the needs of vulnerable children. The government provides shelter for orphans and vulnerable children; UNICEF also has various support programs for children. But they are insufficient.

UNICEF partnered with the Department of Social Services and worked with existing social workers in urban and rural communities. In 2021, approximately 3,000 social workers reached more than 200,000 children and provided them with psychosocial support, case management follow-up and referral services. Since April 2020, they have also facilitated the release of more than 5,000 children from detention centers or correctional facilities and helped them reunite with their families. However, the lack of qualified social workers has left a majority of children without support. Recognizing the essential role of professionally trained social workers at the heart of any child protection system, the government must take appropriate initiatives to ensure at least 100,000 social workers. In addition to trained social workers, the government needs to improve its monitoring mechanism to ensure that working children are not abused and exploited in the informal sector. According to the 2013 National Child Labor Survey, approximately 1.7 million children are engaged in child labor, of which 1.2 million are still employed in hazardous jobs such as brick kilns, crushing of stones, automotive stations, battery charging stations, waste disposal and leather work. , cookie factories and matchboxes. As a result, child labor deaths have become routine. The death of child laborers in the Hashem Foods fire in July 2021 highlights this point.

The government should therefore take steps to train a sufficient number of social workers to improve the capacity of the child protection system. In doing so, it must also improve its monitoring mechanism to ensure that children’s rights are not violated in the formal and informal sector. Social safety net programs must also be designed with the economic burden of working class children in mind. The government should quickly establish an independent national commission for the rights of the child to oversee and monitor officials and agencies responsible for protecting children’s rights.

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