Social work as a profession is geared towards the promotion of social welfare and wellbeing of its clientele and entails advocacy for justice, provision of basic needs and promotion of food, income and social security of the clients. AMPATH largely serves the most vulnerable population: widows and widowers, orphans, the ostracized, and the neglected. It has been established that over 60% of the AMPATH population are poor. Since poverty plays a central role in accelerating vulnerability, AMPATH's patients are mainly poor, especially women and children.
The Social Work program handles some of the most difficult issues for all AMPATH clients. All clinics have full or part time services of a social worker, and most clients require evaluation at some point during their care. Because patients live in poverty the social barriers to care are many. Lack of funds for transport to clinic, lack of school fees for children, lack of food in the home, lack of money for rent, lack of work, and lack of money to pay hospital bills are some of the most common problems that our patients face. Some of our patients live in abusive situations at home. Social workers face a daunting and often emotionally draining task of discussing these difficult issues with clients and providing resources when available.
The AMPATH social worker undertakes a socio-economic assessment (vulnerability assessment) of the clients and initiates activities geared towards mitigating adverse social impact to the client. By referring to relevant programs for intervention, the social worker becomes an effective manager of the referrals. The social worker conducts home visits and assessments for comprehensive assessment. Ideally, all the AMPATH clients are supposed to see the social worker not just for immediate problem solving but for prevention purposes. However, this can often be a challenge because there are only 35 social workers serving a population of over 100,000.
It must be noted that the services vary from client to client and the social worker works to ensure that the interventions are tailored to meet the specific client needs. Some of the interventions of the social work program include:
- Rent payment (for clients who can't afford rent due to different reasons)
- Shelter construction (for aged clients with a piece of land but no house)
- Household support (basic utilities: Mattresses, beddings, kitchenware, etc.). This targets clients who are usually neglected by their families.
- Referral for food support
- Assistance in meeting the costs of medication
- Legal aid support (referral to LACE): addressing the injustices and human rights violations to our clients
- Safe houses (shelters) for clients sexually abused, neglected and at risk in the community
These are services geared towards livelihood reconstruction and support to empower the client to be self-reliant and capable of fending for one self. These include:
- Small business start up (micro-enterprise initiatives)
- Linkage to FPI for agricultural extension, business development and skills development
- Mobilization of smallholder farmers (our clientele) to access formal markets including the World Food Program (Purchase for Progress initiative by the World Food Program)
- NHIF enrollment by our clients to ensure social insurance for in-patient medical cover
- Community self-help groups for maximizing access to community resources.