Social Work Practice

Social work is a growing field in Mongolia and the state takes the main responsibility for the social services. To date, there are social work positions in five publicly funded settings: secondary schools, local administrative units called khoroo/bagh, court-decision implementation agencies, social welfare agencies, and hospitals. The first social work position sanctioned by the government was that of school social worker. Since 2000 the number of school social workers has grown to 689 employed at 775 schools (Mongolian Association of School Social Workers, 2012). More than 700 social workers are grass-root social workers in the social welfare system. Social workers at khoroos and baghs – local administrative units – perform the functions of community social workers. School social workers became a part of the teams committed to building child-friendly schools, and social workers started to work in detention centres under the Court Decision Implementation Agency in 2004. Workers in the social welfare sector have committed themselves to the better provision of community-based services shifting from just providing direct social welfare benefits and assistance to people and families. This change was necessitated by the Social Security Development Master Plan adopted by the Mongolian government in 2003, which set forth a policy promoting the development of community-based social services. Health social workers started working in family clinics and specialized hospitals, such as those providing palliative care.

Social workers are employed in NGOs specializing in promoting human rights and child protection, combating domestic violence and trafficking as well as supporting poor and homeless people. Social workers from the nongovernmental
organizations fill the service gaps where the government cannot reach. Social workers in some NGOs are dedicated to prevention, crisis intervention, and rehabilitation services; some of them provide child protection services and conduct training on behaviour changes. The opportunities to access these types of services do not exist in rural settings or remote districts/khoroos where particular NGOs are not operating. A small number of private social service agencies provide health care, legal assistance, and counselling and care services; however, limited types of services and poor quality are attributed alike to governmental, nongovernmental, and private services.

Mongolian social workers are predominantly female; for example, more than 70 per cent of school social workers are female. While in developing countries social work is practiced by professionals with a master of social work degree and a licence for providing social work services, in Mongolia the professional criteria for social workers are different. The criteria include minimal requirements such as having a bachelor of social work degree, and working experience in the public or service sectors.

Many Mongolian social workers began their careers by practicing social work before they formally studied for a degree or certification. Mongolian social work practitioners as well as teachers gain professional experience through their experience at work. The majority of practitioners who hold social work titles in Mongolia are professionals from other backgrounds who became 'social workers' through certified training programs. As a result, social work graduates in these fields are mainly employed in NGOs or in other sectors. Many teachers became social work teachers shifting from other disciplines such as philosophy, language, art, and psychology.

Social workers have many kinds of roles in order to deliver social services. They are involved in program development, advocacy, program evaluation, policy development, and social work as educators, brokers, case managers, community organizers, and counsellors. Today Mongolian social workers provide the following services:

1. Community-based services,

2. Resources and information,

3. Liaison with health care and other social services,

4. Supportive services,

5. Referral to jobs and training,

6. Home care,

7. Family and individual counselling,

8. Crisis intervention,

9. Health education and services,

10. Food and shelter services for the homeless,

11. Rehabilitation services,

12. Protective services,

13. Awareness raising,
Gerontology or social work with the elderly,

14. Child protection services,

15. Psychosocial and socio-educational services,

16. Case management,

17. Group work,

18. Employment services,

19. Social work services with offenders, and

20. Shelter services for victims of human trafficking

Children and family issues are the focus of social services in Mongolia and a multidisciplinary approach to services for children and families is the framework for social workers who work toward protecting children who are abused or neglected and provide services to meet their developmental and social needs, such as participation in educational and social activities. Child protection and child welfare services are provided in shelters and drop-in centres. Monthly financial support is provided for people who are looking after orphans or children living in difficult conditions.

Moreover, the Mongolian government approved policies and programs to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Social workers work in programs protecting children from participating in child labor, especially working in the mining sector and at dumpsites on the list of prohibited jobs for minors, and ensuring they enroll at school.

Community services are mainly targeted to functionally independent people. Since 2003 community-based service centers for children and families run programs consisting of various developmental activities and protection services. Within the supportive services, social workers help find employment for the poor and unemployed people who seek a job. In Mongolia people have problems finding employment due to, for example, a poor employment history, lack of working skills, and age discrimination.

In addition to services in child protection, care, and other welfare services for the elderly and the disabled, the roles of social workers are increased in all areas of the social sphere, including children without parental care; rehabilitation services for victims of domestic violence, crime, and perpetrators; behaviour change training for alcoholics and substance abusers; social service referrals and employment services for poor and homeless people. Mongolian social workers join efforts to protect and ensure the human rights of people, especially disadvantaged people. Social workers are engaged in the implementation of the 'National Program on Protection from Human Trafficking, Especially Sexual Exploitation of Children and Women' and a national standard on 'General Guidelines on Protection Shelter and Services to Victims'.

The Human Rights Commission report on Mongolia (2012) reported poor prison conditions, abuse of prisoners by police, and uneven law enforcement. In Mongolia, there are a total of 25 correctional facilities including one detention facility and 13 detention centres where, on average, one social worker works
with 200–250 prisoners (NHRC, 2012). The responsibilities of social workers in detention centres include the protection of human rights and the provision of social and rehabilitation services.

Ratios of clients per social worker differ by sector: Khoroo/soum social workers in densely populated urban settlements as well school social workers have high workloads of clients. Hence, although social workers perform a wide variety of tasks, it is still unclear what services can be considered the main duties of Mongolian social workers. Many people visiting Mongolia comment that social work here is different from the Western concept and practice. Many social work responsibilities do not match the definition by the International Federation of Social Workers.

In particular, many duties of soum/khoroo social workers are in administrative matters. They are responsible for providing almost all public services including civil registration, social welfare entitlements, environmental cleanliness, community development, and employment support at a grass-roots level. School social workers spend most of their time maintaining order and discipline at schools and organizing extracurricular activities. Social workers in other sectors also spend a lot of time on administrative and logistics matters. Professional and workplace supervision, which play important roles in increasing the effectiveness of social work services, promoting capacity-building of social workers, and creating professional values and ethical norms for social work, have experienced slow development.

International practice shows that professional associations of social workers act as leaders of professional development and define vision and perspective for social work. Professional associations strive to improve job descriptions for social workers, and their social and occupation status, and develop the profession in line with international standards. Six professional organizations uniting social workers contribute to the development of social work through independent or collaborative activities. They extend training opportunities for social workers and provide them with learning resources, and with the support of these organizations, social workers share their best practices and exchange ideas. However, only the Mongolian Association of School Social Workers has permanent staff and an office. More than 80 per cent of school social workers are members of the Mongolian Association of School Social Workers. Other organizations have few members and function occasionally. This contributes to a situation wherein their voice is weak in decision making regarding social work regulation.

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