Mr Palm's speech during the Annual Review Meeting of the State Social Services on 21 February 2013
I like to thank the organizers for inviting me to your conference and for the opportunity to talk to you. As UNICEF aims to help the government to pursue its reforms and Albania to accede to Europe, we talk a lot of social work and the job you do.
To me, the job of a social worker is one of the most difficult jobs that exists. Because you deal with people, and especially with people who are vulnerable. This is much more difficult than operating a machine or selling something.
You care for people, who often cannot help themselves anymore. If YOU don’t assist the poor, the abused women, the neglected child, the person with disability or an elderly person, nobody will. Who else will help them, if not you?
I can only imagine how difficult it is to see poverty and remain confident; to see the pain and provide comfort; to face violence when trying to protect a victim; to be firm when witnessing abuse and neglect. Not many people can do the job that you do.
Also social work is a profession that changes over time. Science provides new insights. Today we know more than yesterday. Albanians know how quickly a society can change.
We know that cash assistance alone will not eliminate the cause of poverty – it only reduces it debilitating effects. A single national policy will not prevent poverty, or reduce domestic violence, reduce child abuse and neglect, or prevent discrimination.
It is no longer enough to certify an application for ndihma ekonomike. In most situations, you will be required to intervene, in person. The modern social worker is a mediator. You talk to people, help them to solve issues. You build bridges between people and other institutions. You connect those in need with those who can help.
The future social worker is not - or not only - an administrator who assesses cases and fills a form, but a person who manages the situations until the client is able to stand on his or her own feet again.
This makes your job a true profession, requiring continuous professional education. The professional standards will increase, and there will be new and modern protocols for managing your clients.
A major part of the reform is the transformation of residential institutions into community based or family based care. I want to be very clear. A child belongs into a family and not into an institution.
This is not only the best for the child. We are told that the average cost of a child in an institution is about 70,000 Lek per month. Even for a fraction of this money you can find families who are ready to care for the child and give him love.
We need to transform our social work, so we can help families and their children to take charge of their life. I am told that there is no orphanage for children under 3 years of age in Kosovo. I think we can do the same here. It will not cancel your job – it only gives it a different, even more humane purpose.
Often, public perception discriminates against the poor and the helpless. How often have we heard – not only in Albania - that the poor should work instead of getting ndihme ekonomike; that the woman who was beaten by her husband probably deserved it; that the child with attention deficit should sit at the rear of class.
You, the social workers, know better. I expect you to stand up against public ignorance and help those that cannot help themselves.
Albania is developing fast, and there is the risk that the rich get rich faster than the poor get out of poverty. There is plenty of scientific evidence that a more equal society is good for everybody – for both the poor and for the rich. Social work is the key.
Social work is central to building a fair and just society. It needs engagement and it is a tough job. I thank you all for taking on the challenge.