Agencies Related to the Social Work Profession

Social work in Malaysia is generally related to many welfare programs and activities conducted by the government, nongovernmental organizations, and private agencies. On the government side, there are a few ministries directly linked to the social work profession, such as the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development; and the Ministry of Higher Education.

The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, for instance, consists of four departments including the Department of Women's Development, National Population and Family Development Board, Social Welfare Department and the Social Institute of Malaysia. The Department of Social Welfare Malaysia (DSWM) is the largest agency employing social work professionals, however, only one third of more than 3,000 employees are trained and involved in social work cases whereas the rest are either technical, support, or professional staff (Mohd, 2009).

The Social Welfare Department was established in 1946 with the task of developing the nation after World War II. In the past it was placed under several ministries such as the Department of Community Welfare (1946–1951), Ministry of Industry and Social Relations (1952–1955), Ministry of Labor and
Social Welfare (1958–1959; 1963), and Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (1960–1962). It was then ceded to the Ministry of General Welfare (1964), which became successively the Ministry of Social Welfare (1982), and the Ministry of National Unity and Community Development (1990) (SWDM, 2009). On 27 March 2004, the department was placed under the Ministry of Women and Family Development, Malaysia; on 1 April 2005, it was integrated with the Ministry of Women and Family Development, assuming the new name of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (Rani, 2007).

The department's main mission is to develop society towards social well-being through realizing its four main objectives:

1. to provide shelter and rehabilitation for the department's target groups;

2. to develop the community through the process of changing attitudes and increasing capability for self-reliance;

3. to create a society with a caring culture, and

4. to improve the well-being of society through professional social welfare and social development services and strategic sharing of responsibilities.

The department has at least seven target groups including children, people with disabilities, older persons, destitute persons, family (women and girls, single parents, victims of domestic violence, the poor, people with problems, and juvenile offenders), victims of natural disaster, and voluntary welfare organizations. Amongst others, DSWM provides services in terms of prevention, protection, rehabilitation, development, and integration. There are seven laws that have been promulgated and put under DSWM administration: the Directive General of Social Welfare Act 1948 (Act 529); the Destitute Person Act 1977 (Act 183); the Childcare Act 1984 (Act 308); the Homecare Act 1993 (Act 506); the Domestic Violence Act 1994 (Act 521); the Child Act 2001 (Act 611) and the Disabled Persons Act 2008 (Act 685). There are also several policies being developed for the benefit of older people, disabled persons, and children.

Besides government agencies there are at least 200 voluntary organizations involved in numerous welfare activities like providing shelters and care for orphans, people with a physical or mental disability, elderly people, the poor, problematic children, women, and disaster victims, but there are still only a few workers trained in social work (Mohd, 2009). However, public and private institutions of higher learning are intensifying their efforts to offer more education and training for welfare workers in order to fulfill current national needs and social work professional standards.

There is a specific association for social workers in Malaysia known as the Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW) that works closely with government agencies, especially with the DSWM. MASW was formed on 3 March 1973, and registered with the Registrar of Societies on 28 March 1974. It was established as a result of a general agreement among professional social workers from social welfare services, general hospitals, and the University
Hospital, University of Malaya, that MASW should be a body to unite social workers from diverse backgrounds, to meet professional standards, and also to promote and maintain the quality of social work practice and education in the country (MASW, 2008).

MASW has three main missions to accomplish including to be an active advocate for professional competency in social work practice, education, and research; to be a relevant forum for assessing, identifying, and managing social problems; and to be an effective resource of professional support to its members. It also aims to participate dynamically in networking with government and nongovernmental agencies locally and internationally in the pursuit of professional competency in all areas of social work. The association is currently working on the establishment of national competency standards for social work practice and education; enactment of a Social Workers' Act and regulatory certification and licencing; training welfare workers; organizing workshops/seminars on social work issues to enhance competency in practice; conducting talks and public forums to increase awareness; participating and presenting papers at conferences; and conducting social research (MASW, 2008). Even though social work professionals are not on a par with some other professions in this country, they are beginning to receive adequate recognition from the government agencies and NGOs. This is proved by their continuous collaboration in organizing social work activities and programs.

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