Para social workers (PSWs) are widely used in African nations to address inadequate capacity in the professional workforce, but there is to date very little academic commentary on the effectiveness of their role. This article considers the potential efficacy of the PSW model in strengthening child protection at community level in Uganda. Twenty interviews were conducted with local government officers, civil society organisation staff and PSWs (10 in each of 2 rural areas), together with four supplementary expert interviews. The data were analysed using a framework of community resilience. The findings suggest that the model has considerable potential to strengthen community‐level protection of children in circumstances in which the operation of formal systems is limited by resource constraints and outside interventions may struggle to gain understanding and acceptance within communities. Challenges include the potential for conflicts of interest to arise and the implications of increased reporting of child maltreatment for the response of the formal child protection system, including alternative care arrangements. Given its widespread and developing usage, further research to understand the conditions under which the PSW model is most effective and sustainable in different social, economic, political and cultural contexts is essential.
‘This article considers the potential efficacy of the PSW [para social worker] model in strengthening child protection at community level in Uganda’
Key Practitioner Messages
PSWs can provide significant additional capacity to community‐level child protection arrangements at little cost in a culturally appropriate fashion.
A key strength of the PSW model lies in its potential to regenerate community resources through the engagement of community members.
Developing sustainable community‐based child protection arrangements requires that attention is paid to balancing fiscal considerations against community ownership and also the response of the formal child protection system to increased reporting of child maltreatment.