The Department of Social Welfare is mandated under the Juveniles Act Cap 53, of the Laws of Zambia to provide protective and care services for children in need of care or in conflict with the law. Social Welfare Officer’s undertake vartious roles as Juvenile’s Inspectors, Probation Officers, Guardian Ad-Litem.
The following are some of the roles involving Social Welfare Officers (juvenile Inspectors & Probation Officers):
Investigations for Court for Children in Contact or in Conflict with the Law: Social Welfare Officers, in this case referred to as Juvenile Inspectors/ Probational Officers have the responsibility of representing the children in contact or in conflict with the Law in the Courts proceedings.
Rehabilitation services for Male and Female Juvenile Offenders: The Ministry has two Approved Schools for rehabilitation programmes for juveniles in conflict with the law: Nakambala in Mazabuka for the boys and Insakwe in Ndola for the girls. This is based on the concept that children make mistakes as they grow and their behavior needs to be corrected and guided into the right path in order to develop into responsible citizens.
Inspection of Children’s Homes: The Department also provides inspection of children’s homes in order to ensure compliance with the set Minimum Standards of Care and other provisions of the Law. Currently the Ministry through the Department of Social Welfare is providing supervisory support to 178 Child Care Facilities with more than 6,500 vulnerable children throughout the Country in order to provide appropriate care and protection.
The Public may also wish to know that the Juveniles Act under Section 22 Sub-section 2 also provides for the Office of the Commissioner for Juvenile Welfare (the Director Social Welfare) to give authorization of absence of any infant/child travelling abroad or away from his/her place of residence by providing a travel license.
The Ministry through the Department with support from UNICEF is also piloting the Diversion programme for juveniles in conflict with the law in four (4) pilot districts being Lusaka, Kapiri Mposhi, Ndola and Kitwe Districts. The Concept of Diversion is based on the rationale of providing diversion services for children in conflict with the law, outside the formal judicial proceedings and should therefore be able to respond to the best interest of the child.