A few months ago - in early June - the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) HE Themba Masuku of Eswatini officially launched CPIMS+/Primero as the national child protection data platform. The celebration was more than just a launch event; it was a moment of recognition for the staff of Eswatini's Social Welfare Department. In a small country with limited resources, these social services champions had been waiting for an integrated case management data system for a long time. With the help of partners Bantwana and UNICEF Eswatini, that system has finally arrived.
Eswatini is the seventh smallest country in Africa, by land area. About 1.2 million people live there. However, according to this 2019 UNICEF report, as of 2018, "43% of residents are between the ages of 0 and 17 years, and adolescents (10-19 years) account for one-fourth of the total population". So although the population and size may be small, providing adequate care and social services for the vulnerable is no small task. The social services workforce needs modern tools and technologies to facilitate quality case work and maximize their reach.
"Child protection data from all four regions can now be collected, aggregated and accessed at the Department of Social Welfare headquarters in real time."
Deputy Prime Minister HE Themba Masuku of Eswatini
The rollout of the CPIMS+ is a major step forward on Eswatini's path towards a modernized, holistic, integrated child protection system. The key to improving any child protection system is building the capacity of the workforce. Social workers themselves are the first ones to say this. They need fit-for-purpose tools that make their work easier and more effective, not burdensome systems that add hours of work to their already-busy day. For Primero, social workers are not just users, they are partners in a shared project.
Amanda Ngwenya, a social worker based in Manzini with the Department of Social Welfare in the DPM’s office says she is excited about the introduction of the CPIMS+. She highlighted how the transition from the paper-based system will improve the quality of service delivery for social workers. “The first challenge with the paper-based system is the high risk of data loss…for instance sometime last year there was a fire incident in our office and some data was burnt,” explained Amanda.
She further explained that the paper-based system is very time consuming because they have to use exercise books to capture data in the field. This data needs to be captured in the paper-based system in the office, something which leads to delays in service provision for walk-in clients.
“With the paper-based system, we also have limited control over who can access data. There is a high risk of unauthorized people accessing confidential information. But with the CPIMS+, we each have a unique username and password, and that ensures the protection of clients’ confidential data” she added. Amanda further highlighted that the Primero/CPIMS+ will ensure that case management is standardized because the same forms and procedures will be used. She also explained that the system will promote accountability because they will know that once a case is assigned, one social worker will be responsible for it until case closure.
The Primero initiative is gaining global momentum, and is focused on bringing social services providers like Amanda the tools they need to meet the demands they face every day. Every case is a child in need. Every social worker is making a difference is children's lives. In Eswatini and everywhere we work, the time is now to invest in the social services workforce.
Thanks to our colleagues at the Bantwana Initiative and to Jozian, Ltd for their dedication and technical support.