Ministry of Social Services to provide counselling for war affected

The Ministry of Social Services is to train and develop counselling services across the country to deal with the large number of people, who are mentally affected consequent to the war that raged in the North and East, which had also affected many others in different parts of the country.

The ministry will focus mainly on elders, the differently-abled and single parent families, a ministry source said.
Secretary of the Ministry of Social Services, Emelda Sukumar, said the social care centres established in divisional secretariats in the North and the East are visited by 10 patients every day.

A Cabinet paper is to be submitted to Parliament soon in this regard, consequent to which a department will be established to provide counselling services to those so affected. Currently, there are no set standards for counselling services, and the profession is not officially recognized. In addition, there appears to be a lack of coordination between the government and non-governmental organizations (NGO) in the field of counselling while the opportunities for counsellors to pursue higher education in this area are also limited.

The Ministry at present employs 300 counsellors, with an additional 700 counsellors being active through NGOs and the private sector. Sources said the National Institute of Social Development conducts diploma and higher education programmes on Counselling for about 600 graduates per year.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Minister of Social Services, Felix Perera, said: “The Cabinet paper will highlight the importance of counsellors in the country. Currently, people have many misconceptions regarding mental issues and we hope to help the people who have gone through much trauma with a team of suitably qualified and professional counsellors. This initiative is also part of a recommendation from the report released by the LLRC. ”
Ministry Secretary, Sukumar, further expanding on the issue said, “There was a great need to provide training and knowledge in counselling for officers, who are counsellors, as it was deemed necessary after the war ended as the people so affected needed to be looked after in terms of their social and mental well-being as well as their development, in economic terms.”

In addition to the lack of counsellors, the counselling service, according to Sukumar, has no legal framework, nor avenues of higher education, provincial bodies to coordinate the services and a serious lack of standards in the service offered.

“We realize that after the war, the main problems of society in the North and East are of a personal nature. There are family issues of domestic violence which can even lead to murder. We trained police officers in areas such as Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, in counselling, so as to facilitate their dealings with the Tamil population. As a result, we had received positive feedback from the people regarding this initiative,” she said.