A formative implementation evaluation of a Social Auxiliary Worker training programme
A theory-based evaluation has been conducted with an improvement-orientated purpose on the Social Auxiliary Worker (SAW) Training Programme for an accredited provider to improve and continue to implement their own SAW Training Programmes. Theory-driven evaluations are essential for distinguishing between the validity of programme implementation and the validity of programme theory. Addressing the social needs of communities through social development and transformation is a top priority for the South African Government. South Africa faces a shortage of Social Work Practitioners (SWPs) due to emigration, as well as insufficient numbers of university graduates. This shortage has left the current SWPs with severe workload pressures. The South African Department of Social Development (DSD) initiated, in 2004, the training of Social Auxiliary Workers (SAWs) to serve as assistants to the SWPs. The SAW qualification initiative has been developed as a course accredited with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) at the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 4. Providers of SAW training courses are accredited by the Health and Welfare Sectoral Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) and by the South African Council for Social Services Professions (SACSSP). The empirical part of the study was conducted in two stages. The first stage consisted of a clarificatory evaluation, wherein a step-by-step logical participatory process was followed for the clarification and development of the programme theory. This process resulted in logic models and a theory-of-change model against which the evaluation questions for the study were developed. These questions assessed the need for the SAW training programme - and for the SAW training programme planning and design. It was found that there was a need for SAW training programmes and that the SAW training programme had been designed to address this need. The second stage consisted of an implementation evaluation. This was done by means of a data matrix using the evaluation aspects for each of the objectives developed during the clarificatory evaluation. Data gathering was done by means of content analysis, focus group workshops and questionnaires. Data interpretations, conclusions and judgements were made with regard to each of the objectives and consolidated in a table format which indicated the outputs and outcomes, implementation results- and a judgement and recommendation for each objective. It was found that a standardised and structured process was followed most of the time, but that the knowledge and skills training elements, particularly in their practical application, left room for improvement. The study illustrates the advantages of a theory-based evaluation that assists with programme planning and modification, knowledge development and the planning of evaluation studies.