Social Work has Changed Dramatically – Eldemire-Shearer


Chairman of the Board of Supervision (For the Relief of the Poor in Jamaica), Professor Denise Eldemire-Shearer has said that social work has changed dramatically over the years, and as such, persons are not just being assisted, but are being empowered to provide for themselves.
She was addressing the graduation ceremony for nine Poor Relief Officers, held on (Aug. 14), at the Hagley Park Road offices of the Ministry of Local Government and the Environment.
“We used to refer to the outdoor poor for years, as indigents, and paupers. For many of the persons that will now need services and assistance, we are no longer talking about paupers, we are no longer talking about just poor people. The older person, or the elderly who is coming into the infirmary is coming in because of frailty, because of inadequate housing, because of lack of family support. You can no longer assume that the old person being admitted to the infirmary is simply there because they are poor,” she said.
Professor Eldemire-Shearer noted that one of the causes for persons seeking poor relief was the fact that they could no longer physically take care of themselves, and not simply because they are indigent.
“Our life expectancy is now in the seventies and if you get to the age of sixty, you are likely to live another 20 to 25 years. The fact that so many persons have (conditions such as) hypertension and diabetes, means that there is likelihood, if you get to 80 and 85, of needing assistance, with just the basic things of daily living, such as combing the hair, and putting on clothes,” she said.
The Chairman said the Ministry was cognizant of these situations and through the Board has tried to recognize this by, among other things, ensuring that officers were now trained in areas such as helping persons to become self-reliant.
Professor Eldemire-Shearer emphasized that the older person who could still take on bread-winning activities could help their families. She noted that with the new dynamics, it had become critical to adjust the way in which personnel are trained, and that continuous training would always be a priority. “We are now talking about people with a life, with a purpose and people who we know can contribute to development in some sort of way. The grandmother or grandfather who looks after a child, is contributing to development. They may not be contributing an income, but they allow somebody else to go to work, and their investment in the children or the disabled that they help, is an investment in the future. Social workers must be hailed, recognized and facilitated,” she stressed.
In accordance with provisions of the Poor Relief Act, the training programme for officers was held for 15 weeks from July 11 to October 20 of last year, at the department of Community Health and Psychiatry, at the University of the West Indies. The subject areas included: Policies and Laws for Social Assistance and Care (Part I and II); Human Growth and Development; Introduction to Social Psychology; Introduction to Sociology; Fundamentals of Communication for Social Health and Health Workers; Organisation and Administration of Social Agencies; Abnormal Psychology and Chronic Homelessness; Introduction to Social Work (outdoor); and Nursing Administration (indoor).
A total of 240 hours of lecture time were provided, with the trainees drawn from seven parishes. They include: Assistant Matron, Joycelyn Bryan; Assistant Inspector of the Poor, Marion Anderson; Assistant Inspector of the Poor, Claudia Cameron; Assistant Inspector of the Poor, Delomore McBean; Assistant Inspector of the Poor, Doreen Monfriese; Assistant Inspector of the Poor, Annmarie Thomas; Assistant Inspector of the Poor, Sonia James; and Assistant Inspector of the Poor, Treka Lewis, who achieved the highest grade.
According to Course Co-ordinator, Barrington Parsons, the training was done to address “the inadequacy of trained staff that has been plaguing the poor relief system for some time.” A similar training course was held in 2003.

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