KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will be tabling a new Bill in December that will accord professional status to social workers in the country.

Dr Wan Azizah, who is in charge of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, said the move will improve efficiency in the management of social work for targeted groups.

“The ministry is taking a few steps to ensure that the Welfare Department will change the focus on social worker's job scope so that they will conduct case management for the targeted groups.

“Among the changes is through introducing the Social Workers Profession Act, which is expected to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in December 2019.

“The Bill will strengthen the role and efficiency of social worker services so that it is more in line with more complex social problems,” she said during Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat this morning.

Dr Wan Azizah was replying Ipoh Timur MP Wong Kah Woh questioned the comparatively low numbers of qualified social workers in Malaysia against other countries.

The minister said a study conducted by the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit completed in June had found that there is one social worker for 8,756 Malaysians.

She admitted the ratio is far behind other developed countries when compared to the United States (1:490), Australia (1:1,040), United Kingdom (1:3,025) and Singapore (1:3,448).

She attributed the undesirable situation to many Welfare Department officers burdened by other duties beyond their job scope, leading to their inability to conduct their duties efficiently and ability to manage social welfare.

Dr Wan Azizah also admitted that Malaysia's social protection network is fragmented as reported by a United Nations report recently.

To a separate question from Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, the deputy prime minister said that there are 110 social protection programmes conducted by 20 ministries and agencies with only 11 social welfare programmes under the Welfare Department.

“However, even before the UN report was published, the Cabinet has agreed to reactivate the Malaysia Social Protection Council (MySPC) that was first established on October 28, 2016 as the main coordinating body for social welfare programmes,” Dr Wan Azizah said.

She explained that MySPC falls under the Prime Minister's Department Implementation Coordination Unit. A Social Protection Technical Committee will be established under MySPC to coordinate four working committees.

Her own ministry has been granted the mandate to lead the Social Assistance Working Committee.

Among the scope of the Social Assistance Working Committee is to analyse the gap in social assistance, review the assistance needed for the targeted group and ensure it is complementary and there is no overlap, and utilising fiscal resources at an optimum level.