Department of Social Welfare Ghana: Failures, Successes, and the Way Forward

Has the Department of Social Welfare (Herein referred to as DSW) failed to promote the well-being of the vulnerable? Let us find out by reviewing everything the Department claims to stand for.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development is a Government statutory Agency under the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MoGCSP).

The Department was first established in 1946 by Local Ordinance Order No. 66 as the Department of Social Welfare and Housing and later as the Department of Social Welfare in 1950. Against the backdrop of decentralization and the operationalization of the Local Government Act (1993) (Act 462), Local Government Service Act 2003 and the LI 1961, all implementing functions and activities that are delivered to individuals and communities directly by the Department were ceded to the Local Government Service and to the districts in 2011.

Dzifah Tamakloe

However, certain National Strategic Services which are implemented in nature are still catered for at the Centre by the Department, i.e. the control and management of the National Social Welfare Training/ Specialized Institutes.

Over the years, the social welfare department has been noted for protecting the welfare of the vulnerable in society. However, many believe that the department could do better than it does. Having encountered some social workers in Ghana, I came to a conclusion that, indeed, the department can do better.

The department’s values emphasize Professionalism, Dedication, a Sense of Equity, Reliability, Empathy, and Respect for Human Dignity.

But the question is, has the department lived the aforementioned values? Is the Department of social welfare reliable? Are the staff dedicated to their duties? Is the department professional enough? I leave the judgment in your court.

Many NGOs, in the bid to promote the department’s works, are left with dashed hopes. The Department does not honor invitations accordingly, and so forth. Practically, there is no sense of urgency in delivering their work.

Dzifah Tamakloe

DIVISIONS under the Department of Social Welfare


The Division is responsible for the following functions:

  • Responsible for drafting policy guidelines and concept papers;
  • Coordinates the development and implementation of Medium and Short-Term Plans, Annual Work, and Financial Plan of the Department;
  • Develops standards, guidelines and regulations to ensure effective and efficient delivery of social welfare and development interventions;
  • Coordinates and facilitates compliance with standards, guidelines, and regulations within the delivery of social interventions;
  • Initiates the preparation of research proposals, assessment of research proposals, and conduct of research necessary for decision-making, planning, policy inputting, and legislative requirements;
  • Formulates and monitors the implementation of the Department’s medium-term research agenda;
  • Disseminates research findings and advocate for the implementation of the recommendation;
  • Provide leadership in the enhancement and generation of social protection statistics.
  • Monitors and evaluates the effectiveness of social welfare and development interventions, organizational performance, programmes, and projects of the Department;
  • Develop and Operationalize the Department monitoring & evaluation system; and
  • Coordinates the development and implementation of the resource mobilization strategies of the Department.

The Units under the Division are as follows:

  • Planning Unit: -The Unit coordinates the development of medium-term plans and policy guidelines.
  • Resource Mobilization and Management Unit: -The Unit establishes, advocates and promotes effective collaboration and partnerships among relevant stakeholders to mobilize financial, physical and infrastructural resources to support plans, programmes and projects of the Department. It also coordinates and provides technical guidance for the development of the budget of the Department.
  • Research and Information Management Unit: The Unit initiates the preparation and assessment of research proposals; conducts and gathers analyzed data to develop the Department’s policies, planned programmes and/or medium term strategic plans. The Unit also collates data to create a database and integrates new technologies into the operations of the Department. It maintains an information technology network and infrastructure for the Department.
  • Standards Development and Compliance Unit: -The Unit develops, disseminates and ensures compliance to international conventions, regulations, laws, rules, operating manuals, ethics and professional standards for the effective and efficient delivery of social welfare and development interventions.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation Unit: -Monitors and evaluates DSWD’s programmes, projects, and organizational performance; provides technical assistance on social intervention planning, reporting, and coordination; and provides monitoring parameters/guidelines to assess the results of the program/performance review.

The Child and Family Welfare Division provides a support system for family and child welfare programmes.

Specific functions:

  • Design child and family welfare programmes and activities to effectively prevent and protect children from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation;
  • Ensure effective coordination of the child and family welfare system at all levels;
  • Empower children and families to understand abusive situations better and make choices to prevent and respond to situations of risk;
  • Promote reform of existing laws and policies to conform with the Child and Family Welfare system;
  • Monitor the activities of residential homes for the aged;
  • Provide alternative care for children without parental care; and
  • Ensure the registration and management of daycare Centres.

The Division comprises the following Units:

  • Child and Family Welfare Unit: The Unit develops and undertakes programmes to strengthen positive features that reinforce family life strategically. It also advocates for District Assemblies to establish fit persons and foster parent registers rather than constructing residential facilities for children in conflict with the law and orphanages.
  • Residential Homes’ Management Unit: The Unit monitors and provides technical assistance to DSWD facilities rendering residential care and center-based services to children without parental care and the aged.
  • Daycare Centres’ Management: The Unit registers and monitors day-care centers for children between (0-3) years. The Unit monitors and provides technical assistance on the requirements of referral, adoption, and process of issuance of certification declaring a child as legally available for adoption, local adoption, and foster care program in accordance with the existing laws and issuances.

The Programs Development Division (PDD) is primarily responsible for developing and piloting strategic cross-sectoral programmes and projects on social welfare and development for poverty alleviation.

Specific Functions:

  • Ensures the development and pilot of strategic social intervention programmes and projects for poverty alleviation;
  • Provides institutionalize framework for the continuous and effective implementation of Social intervention programs and strategies;
  • Develops institutional mechanisms in establishing and maintaining networks/ alliances at the national level to support the implementation of Social interventions, programs, projects and strategies;
  • Provides recommendations on policy planning and programmes development, monitoring and evaluation; and
  • Coordinates the implementation of sustainable livelihood programs and projects.

The Division consists of the listed Units:

  • Sustainable Livelihood Program Unit:- The Sustainable Livelihood Program Unit develops and pilots national oriented sustainable livelihood programs; reviews and enhances operational and policy guidelines on sustainable livelihood programs and projects; and leads the Department’s efforts in establishing linkages and networks for potential partners.
  • Community-Based Development Programs Unit:-The Unit provides technical assistance and resource augmentation for the vulnerable sectors. It also assesses the psychosocial patients and connects them to necessary resources.
  • NGO Unit:-The Unit registers, licenses, and assesses the operations of Non-governmental organizations and partners in the social development sector.

The Division is responsible for providing technical assistance and services to ensure the welfare of vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Specifically, the Division:

  • Ensures the District Assemblies comply with the laws ensuring justice for juveniles;
  • Advocates legislative agenda relative to the social welfare and development of juveniles;
  • Assists the court in cases involving juveniles and provides prisons aftercare; and
  • Provides correctional measures and remands reformation for juvenile offenders.

The Units under the Division are:

  • Probation Unit: The Unit develops and reviews written guidelines and rules for the complaint’s intake dispositional decisions, procedures, and legal sufficiency. It also ensures the availability and utilization of investigative services.
  • Correctional Unit: The Unit coordinates the operation of residential facilities and reformative for children in contact with the law.
  • Aftercare and Community Service Unit: The Unit provides post-care services for juvenile offenders and adult prisoners.
Dzifah Tamakloe

Having read all of the objectives, divisions, and values of the Department of Social Welfare, it is no doubt that the department has a long way to go. Children on Ghanaian streets keep increasing, yet DSW reveals that 75 percent of these street children are foreigners. How did these foreign street children get on Ghana’s streets? Most children are being abused in various homes, most children are being neglected, and many women and men are being abused; there are no accurate data available on orphanages earmarked for closure, yet the Department of social welfare keeps talking about the care reform initiative (an initiative to promote family-based care rather than institutionalizing children)

Most orphanages need to be better regulated, and data on foster parents in Ghana and their success stories need to be required. There are no regular sensitizations from the department to promote the well-being of children. The department needs to have active social media handles in this day and age. I can go on and on and on. After 66 years as a nation, there are no patrol teams from Social welfare to patrol towns and cities in all districts to monitor the well-being of children. Over the years, the department has blamed its inactivity on a lack of funding from the government.

It isn’t very good! Isn’t it?

Below are some crucial recommendations for the DSW to implement to bounce back and gain the complete trust of Ghanaians

  1. Honour invitations of individuals and organizations to speak and share the broader goals of the Department. Inviting a social worker to speak at an event has been difficult lately because of some ban on them. Many social workers are afraid to talk openly about issues at public gatherings for fear of losing their job. However, this would not help in promoting their values. Instead, the department should train every social worker on communication ethics that way, and they can represent the department fully both at the district and regional, and national levels. Unfortunately, organizations willing to promote the Department of Social Welfare are disappointed because the Department does honor invitations.
  • Develop an active online presence. The Department of Social Welfare should have vibrant social media pages with experienced social media managers to manage these pages. Updates on websites and other social media pages should be timely. Information on vital facilities like recreational centers, registered orphanages, accredited, special schools, etc., should be available on their social media pages. It should not only be about workshops and other funded projects. Doing all these and more will set the Department of Social Welfare in the limelight for exploits.
Dzifah Tamakloe
  • Embark on a thorough sensitization of child rights, child protection, domestic violence, streetism, good parenting skills, etc. Many Ghanaians lack knowledge of fundamental child rights, child protection, and women’s protection. Continually sensitizing these rights will help protect the vulnerable in our societies.
  • Internally generated funds with a sense of accountability. Over the years, the Department of Social Welfare has blamed its incapacitation for lacking funding from the government, etc. However, citizens could raise a national fund to support the vulnerable in society. Many Ghanaians in the diaspora and even at home are willing to contribute to such good causes if only there will be accountability on what the monies are used for. For the Department of Social Welfare to do well, it cannot rely on foreign aid from UNICEF, USAID, etc. It’s about time the leadership set up an account to raise funds internally rather than depend on foreign assistance all the time.
  • Make every piece of information available for public consumption. The Department of Social Welfare is one of the many-breasted departments in Ghana since it touches on the most sensitive aspects of the lives of the vulnerable in society. However, certain vital information like the list of registered orphanages, those earmarked for closure, those closed, the status of domestic violence in society, etc., are not available on their website or social media pages. Information on new developments in the department has yet to be released to make the general public informed. This makes it difficult for people to trust the Department of Social Welfare.
  • Develop active phone lines. This will aid in timely reporting and response to complaints from those in danger and those who want to help the Department of Social Welfare.
  • Strong monitoring procedures: To run efficiently, the Department of Social Welfare must have a robust monitoring and reporting structure

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