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Social Work-Force in A&N Islands

The entire Andaman and Nicobar Islands population has already seen the significant role(s) played by Social Workers and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) during post-Tsunami operations.  More than hundreds of NGOs from various part of world have visited here and established their camp office for community work for the affected population of ANI.  We all know that the problems of the individuals who stay in temporary and short stay homes are diverse in nature.  For the migrant and disaster affected, the needs of providing immediate basic  needs,  counseling to recover from the trauma and shock caused due to the tragedy, provision of legal aid, initiation of rehabilitation efforts and linking up with government agencies and other NGOs is important.  Many NGOs in India provide community services.  Some of them specialize in a single activity e.g. health, education while others provide multiple services.  Most of them have Social Workers working for them. They identify the felt needs of the people, organizing awareness programmes, mobilizing people, identifying leaders, setting priorities, suggesting alternative means to solve the problems, implementing programmes  and evaluating them.
Social work seeks to assist individuals, groups and communities to reach the highest possible degree of social, mental and physical well-being.  It operates in consideration of all social, economic and psychological factors that influence the life of the individual, the family, the social group, and the community.   Social work is the professional activity of helping individuals, families, groups, or communities enhance or restore their capacity for social functioning or creating societal conditions favorable to that goal. It is applied science of helping people achieve an effective level of psychological functioning and effecting social changes to enhance the well-being of all people. The fundamental purposes of social work are: to help people improve their social functioning; and to create social conditions that will enhance the well-being of people and prevent problems in social functioning.
Skills of Social Worker
Social work practice has focused on meeting human needs and developing human potential.  Human rights and social justice serve as the motivation and justification for social work action.  In solidarity with those who are disadvantaged, the profession strives to promote the vulnerable and oppressed towards their social inclusion.  The Social Workers handle Case work, Group work and Community work.  They have following skills:
* Listen to others with understanding and purpose
* Elicit information and assemble relevant facts to prepare a social history, assessment and report
* Create and maintain a professional helping relationship
* Observe and interpret verbal and non-verbal behavior
* Engage clients to resolve their problems and gain trust
* Discuss sensitive and emotional subjects supportively  and without being threatening
* Create innovative solutions to client needs
*  Conduct the need to terminate the therapeutic relationship
* Mediate and negotiate between conflicting situations
* Provide inter-organizational liaison services
* Interpret and communicate social needs to funding sources, public and state
The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being.  Utilizing theories of human behavior and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments.   Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.  Its various forms address the multiple, complex transactions between people and their environments.  Its mission is to enable all people to develop their full potential, enrich their lives, and prevent dysfunction.  Professional social work is focused on problem solving and change.  As such social workers are change agents in society and in the lives of the individuals, families and communities they serve.   Social work recognizes the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psycho-social factors.
Need of Social Work Education
Both Central and State Governments, and NGOs witness acute shortage of trained social workers at middle and lower levels (some even as Para-professional) for appointment, particularly in rural areas.  With the expansion of social development concerns, globalization, advanced media technology, there is an urgent need for specially trained personnel to organize and manage social development programmes and to meet the challenges posed by the fact changing social scenario.  Several states and union territories – particularly, the North-Eastern States and Andaman & Nicobar Islands have hardly any institution for training social workers.  The social service and rural / urban / tribal dev elopement sectors in these states have been adversely affected due to dearth of trained professionals.   There is dearth of trained employees with most of the NGOs.   Further, there is a strong indication that the NGOs are very much eager to have the programme of study in social work for their in-service personnel.
The Regional Centre of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) was established at Port Blair city after the Tsunami,   as post-Tsunami development action.  Being so, the university started offering  its Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Master of Social Work (MSW) programmes through its network of study centers across the length & breath of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.  Through this attempt,  over 100 students  have got educated in the field of social work. Thus, a significant improvement in the situation of availability of trained man power (work force for social work) for the administration. 
The social work education (MSW / BSW) covers: Social work intervention - with individuals & groups / communities & institutions; family life education; HIV / AIDS: stigma, discrimination and prevention education; Substance Abuse and Counseling; working with individuals / groups; social psychology; community organizations management for community development etc.  The application of theoretical knowledge into practice, through field work, is an integral part of every year curriculum.  The compulsory component of 25 full days of field work per year (a total of 75 days in 3-years study) gives hands-on training - cum - exposure to BSW students.  Similarly, the 45 days of field work per year (a total of 90 days in 2-year study) in MSW moulds the student to become professional social worker.
Job Opportunities for Social Workers
The social welfare boards, social welfare commission, human rights commission, tribal development / research centres, NGOs, self- help groups, women empowerment centres, legal assistance providers (RTI / PIL), rehabilitation centres, jails, educational institutions, anthropology departments, hospitals, AIDS society, Red Cross society, project sites, disaster management units etc. are having potential opportunities for qualified social workers.  The corporate sectors, banks, private or public sector organizations also spend lot of money towards their social responsibility programmes / activities;  wherein the need of professionally educated social workers are on growing demand.  Every government office in  ANI need to have few trained social workers to handle tribal population of islands.   The special human touch of social worker (posted in Govt. offices) handling tribal people of islands will definitely improve the government services to the tribals.  Let us all try to develop the under-privileged population of our islands through social workers.
(The author is Regional Director of IGNOU Regional Centre at Port Blair and can be reached at  or 8900936718)


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