Welfare workers under heavy strain

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Welfare workers under heavy strain

It has become routine for a 41-year-old social worker named Choi Chang-won, who works at a community center, in Seo District, Daegu, to stay late into the night at the center twice a week to finish his work.

Choi said yesterday he is solely responsible for over 200 welfare-related tasks and usually stays until 10 p.m. to finish his work.

Welfare service programs for which he is responsible include, among others, providing basic living subsidies to those in the low-income bracket, childcare aid and giving funds to public schools.

Choi, who is the only welfare worker at the center that manages 11,000 residents, said he only “hoped for one additional welfare worker” to help with his overwhelming duties.

“It’s hard to visit residents in need because of the heavy administrative work I handle every day,” the worker told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Choi is not the only social worker with an excessive workload. As more and more social focus has steadily been shifted to the “welfare society,” an increasing number of welfare workers are overloaded.

Over the past two months, three welfare workers committed suicide, leaving suicide notes in which they complained of excessive daily duties placed upon them and the enormous stress as a result.

Stung by the unexpected suicides, the government said yesterday it will increase the number of social workers by assigning 2,340 public servants to the welfare service to ease the workload.

Of the total 2,340 assigned workers, 1,540 of them will be new recruits, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said.

The 2,340 figure is 9.2 percent of the number of current social workers in the country.

The ministry added it will provide psychological treatments for work-stricken welfare workers in cooperation with public health centers as well as award them with extra points for their performance evaluation.

The ministry reported it will especially pay attention to increasing welfare staff members for a community center that has over 10,000 town residents. It also added each community center will have at least two welfare workers to handle growing workloads.

“It was disheartening to hear the reports of suicides by the social workers recently,” said public administration minister Yoo Jeong-bok during a visit yesterday to one community center in Seongdong District, northeastern Seoul.

“We will come up with appropriate measures to improve the current situation upon hearing more from those working in the field.”

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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