Placement factors contributing to the well-being of social work interns in a government setting
Social work was declared a scare skill as a result of research conducted by Earl (2008) on the nature of scarce skills in South Africa. A shortage of social workers was identified and therefore a recruitment and retention strategy for social workers was developed to address this shortage. A bursary programme for social work students was initiated as a strategy to recruit and retain social workers. Previously, the recipients of bursaries had been assured of a post at the Department of Social Development, Limpopo, after completion of their studies in accordance with their contract with the bursary provider. However, financial constraints at the Department of Social Development have resulted in the conditions of the bursary contract being changed. The social work graduates are now required to participate as interns in a 12-month internship programme at the Department of Social Development. The research for this study was done in the Limpopo Province to determine the factors that contribute to the well-being of social work interns. Most of these interns were placed in districts other than their district of origin, where the Department of Social Development in Limpopo deemed it necessary due to the need for service delivery to the needy. The participants from three of the five districts in Limpopo, namely the Waterberg, Sekhukhune and Capricorn districts, were sampled for the study. A qualitative descriptive design was utilised in this research and a purposive sampling technique was used. The sample size was determined beforehand, but sampling continued until data saturation was reached. Twenty-two participants voluntarily participated in this research. An interview guide was utilised to facilitate the semi-structured interviews. For the data analysis, thematic analysis was applied with the allocation of themes and subthemes to the data. The study found that the social work interns had not been prepared for their internship placement and were not aware of the circumstances that awaited them. The following factors were identified through this study as having an influence on the well-being of the social work interns: the situation with their accommodation, the distance from family and need for emotional support, cultural and language differences within the community, and the work environment, including the availability or unavailability of resources and supervisors. The relationship with colleagues and members of the community also had a direct influence on the well-being of the interns. It was evident that, in certain areas, the environment where they were placed had an influence on the health of the interns. It became clear that the mental well-being of the interns was also affected, whether positively or negatively; not only by the conditions of the internship placement, but also by the manner in which the termination of the internship programme had taken place as well as the lack of communication by the immediate supervisors. Their well-being was furthermore seriously affected by the fact that the financial situation of the Department made it impossible for all interns to be absorbed in posts at the Department after the internship period.
- Health Sciences