Pioneering work to support social services in Ghana

  • Date

    Fri 9 Feb 24

Staff from social services in Ghana attending a research workshop

A University of Essex lecturer is leading a project which will make a real difference to children and families in West Africa.

Funded by the University’s International Impact Fund, the project is taking a novel approach in creating the first child maintenance checklist for professionals who are supporting families.

Dr Ebenezer Cudjoe, lecturer in Childhood Studies in the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, is leading the project which has the potential to help hundreds of families in need of child maintenance support.

Working alongside colleagues from the University of Ghana, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Manso, and Dr Alhassan Abdullah from Flinders University in Australia, he hopes to develop a model of best practice which can be used by a range of social service agencies in the country, as well as in other developing countries.

The research team recently held a workshop in Ghana to kick start the project. The workshop included social workers from the Local Government Service and the Department of Social Welfare, who shared their experiences and knowledge on child maintenance.

According to UNICEF, about 80% of cases handled by social workers in Ghana are classified as child maintenance, but there isn’t a standard approach to working with these cases.

The project is to co-produce a checklist that could guide the social workers in assessing child maintenance cases. Dr Cudjoe explained that it has become necessary for a standardised checklist to be developed in order to address issues of child maintenance in the country, which is the main concern for families seeking support from child protection agencies in Ghana.

“A child maintenance case is where one parent reports to social workers that the other parent is not being responsible for the care of their children, often leading to social workers asking for regular financial contributions to be made towards the wellbeing of the child,” he said.

The aim for the checklist is to focus on all issues impacting the children, not just monetary ones.

Professor Frimpong-Manso said: “We identified that while social workers concentrate on the monetary aspect of child maintenance, there are other aspects that they do not really concentrate on, including the physical violence that children experience because their parents are not maintaining them.

“There are experiences of aggression and domestic violence between the parents, and also marital discord, which does not allow the parents to unite and be able to provide the children with what they need in terms of well-being and development.”

This comes from the idea that child maintenance is only the tip of the iceberg, and that, through a holistic assessment like this, other challenges the family face could be explored.

“The reason we want to develop a very practitioner-friendly checklist is so that when the client comes, the social worker can easily identify all the issues that might be confronting both the children and parents and then, based on that, be able to do an adequate assessment of the issues and put in place interventions which will benefit the children,” said Dr Cudjoe.

From the results of the workshop, the team will develop a sample checklist, which will then be piloted in selected districts in the Greater Accra Region in Ghana.

More information will also be gathered from social workers across the country, and this, alongside analysis of the data and the results from the pilot programme, will be used to create the final checklist for use by practitioners.