Social Work Licence and Professional Association

Although, the social work profession was established in 1942, a professional license is still not a reality. On 22 March 2010, the Cabinet of Abhisit Vejjajiva approved the Social Work Licence Bill – this is the most progress the profession's attempt has made. At present, the bill is under the scrutiny of the Office of Legislative and Judicial Board before being put to Parliament for approval. The licence process is still on the long and winding road.

Mongkolnchaiarunya (2009) contends that the main obstacle to issuing a Social Work Licence Law is the fundamental values deep in Thai society – the unique patron–client values which are culturally embedded in Buddhist practices. He points out that 95 per cent of Thai people are Buddhists. Giving food and providing help to the needy are believed to be good things that Buddhists should do. So, there is a kind of sharing among Thais in the local communities which indicates that the society/community naturally is able to provide a social safety net for its members and professional social work is not significant to the structure. The Thai terms for 'social work' and 'social assistance' are confusing. At the top of the Thai social structure, social services, social assistance, or relief activities are rendered by the higher status politicians and the rich. As there is a channel for layman to receive royal medals by providing social services to the needy, many
people enthusiastically demonstrate their good will by sharing their wealth. They also are called 'social workers' in Thai.

Meanwhile, a number of social activists and development workers who mostly work in advanced NGOs, and whose performance should be regarded as proactive social work activities, refuse to call themselves 'social workers'. They prefer to be community development workers and often express their intention to exclude and distance their work from the social work domain. Some of them even show negative attitudes towards 'social work' when speaking in public. This pattern exists alongside and parallels the mainstream charitable concept of social work.

The social work professional organization in Thailand, the Social Workers Association of Thailand (SWAT), was established in 1958. In 2009, SWAT had 1,170 members of which approximately 10 per cent are social work degree holders. The administration team is elected every two years and most of the presidents have been senior officials in the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. The association hardly takes any significant role in social work and the development of social welfare and is now operating on a deficit as a result of lack of income from membership fees or other fundraising projects. The current president, Associate Professor Apinya Wechayachai, is working hard to activate the association by developing an internal communication system and submitting training proposals to the national social welfare fund. This proposed program is useful for social work professional development and will help generate some income for the association.

Although a social work licence is still not a reality, the social work profession has been acknowledged to some degree by the government. The Civil Service Commission (CSC), which has the mandate to identify and validate all professions that can be recruited to work as civil servants, has announced that 'social worker' is such a position, and qualification requirements and a job description are also clearly stated. Due to the scarcity of graduates from the social work field in the past, persons with sociology and psychology backgrounds will be accepted as social workers. A social development degree is included but high-ranking social workers are often promoted to lead social welfare units as administrators and thus stop working as social workers.

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