In my current capacity as President of IFSW Europe, I was honored to accept an invitation from the Department of Social Work at the University of Mostar and the Association of Social Workers of Herzegovina. This invitation has been extended to attend an International Conference focused on child protection in the city of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The discussions and the presentation of their work revealed that social workers in Bosnia and Herzegovina confront numerous challenges while upholding their professional commitment to assisting people during their most trying moments. On the other hand, engaging in active learning with social workers across Europe is imperative for the social work profession in their country at this stage of its development.
The challenges I discussed with social workers include:
Working conditions and legal ambiguities
In addition to inadequate working conditions, there is a shortage of employed social workers in social welfare centers, given the scope of work and services provided there. Due to the lack of human resources, it is not possible to address the problem thoroughly. If more social workers were employed, a more comprehensive approach, monitoring, and supervision would be possible, which is currently not achievable to the fullest extent due to the large workload.
In addition, the legal framework governing the social work profession in the country is often inadequate and ambiguous. There is a visible lack of clear social policy guidelines on interventions, which leads to a lack of financial programs provided by the state for social services. These challenges create a challenging environment for social workers, requiring clarification and improvements in legal regulations to empower them in their essential roles.
Social workers are often burdened with administrative tasks. This overwhelming workload leaves them with limited time to engage directly with people to provide psychosocial counselling. Excessive paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles diminish their ability to truly have a positive impact on the lives of those they serve.
Lack of employment of social workers in the educational and medical fields
The absence of social workers employed in schools leads to a lack of essential support and guidance that could help children cope with their challenges. Addressing this gap is crucial to supporting children’s holistic development.
Similarly, the healthcare system in Bosnia and Herzegovina is experiencing a shortage of social workers. In healthcare settings, social workers play a crucial role in providing emotional support and assistance to patients and their families. The lack of these professionals in the health system exacerbates the burdens faced by both patients and medical staff.
Apart from the shortage of employees in education and healthcare, there is also a shortage of social workers in the field of social care.
Lack of supervision and stress
Supervision is an indispensable element of a social worker’s professional development and well-being. However, social workers in Bosnia and Herzegovina rarely have the opportunity for supervision. The absence of this vital support system can lead to burnout and hinder their ability to provide the best possible care to their clients. Given the emotionally and mentally demanding nature of the profession, professional supervision is imperative to alleviate overwhelming stress.
I would like to express my deep appreciation for the dedication and strong sense of professional responsibility shown by social workers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the challenges they face. Their tireless efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of the most vulnerable people are truly inspirational and worthy of admiration.
President, IFSW Europe