Social work practice in Lesotho’s Ministry of Social Development

Authored by: Jotham Dhemba , Masealimo Marumo

The Handbook of Social Work and Social Development in Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472468512
eBook ISBN: 9781315557359
Adobe ISBN: 9781317029380


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Although social work practice in the Ministry of Social Development in Lesotho is undergoing transformation, albeit very slowly, it remains largely welfare oriented and reactive in nature. To a large extent, the development of social welfare policies and programs in Lesotho has maintained the traditional focus of social work centred on casework, custodial care, and therapeutic models. While these traditional social work approaches have their place, there have been ongoing calls for more appropriate interventions to address the social problems and issues confronting most African countries (Anderson, Wilson, Mwanza, & Osei-Hwedie, 1994; Gray & Fook, 2004; Midgley, 1981; Mupedziswa, 1992; Rankopo, 2014). At the same time, while criticism of casework’s individualistic, psychosocial approaches, especially in situations of cultural diversity and pervasive poverty is valid, there are sound reasons for their persistence. First, government agencies are, by nature, formal and rigid, to the extent that it is difficult to bring about radical change in their modus operandi. Practice in such settings is straitjacketed with change most likely to be incremental and gradual. Second, the issue of cultural differences can also be said to be exaggerated as culture is dynamic and values of individualism emerging in African societies have transformed many Africans into individualistic and inward-looking people (Kaseke & Dhemba, 2007). Therefore, the shortcomings of casework, the dominant method of social work practice in the Ministry of Social Development notwithstanding, it is also important to appreciate that social welfare policy and legislation in Africa in general and Lesotho in particular is still evolving, and, in this sense, constantly changing. While issues relating to the appropriateness of social work interventions in Africa are critical, equally important is the development and implementation of relevant social welfare policies and legislation. To this end, the Ministry has, over the years, developed and advocated for policies and legislation to assist vulnerable populations in Lesotho. The transition to social development is, however, being hampered by financial and human-resource constraints, among other challenges.

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