In view of the lack of resources, both in terms of finances and staff, the question arises as to how long-term the socio-pedagogical care of children and young people in problem situations can be guaranteed in Upper Austria. Alexander König, chairman of the Association for Social Pedagogy in Upper Austria, came to this conclusion yesterday. The association includes 16 socio-pedagogical associations, whose 2,000 employees look after 5,000 children and young people every year.
The services of the member associations are divided into two areas: in inpatient care services where children are cared for, for example, in regular residential groups or crisis foster families. This also includes the SOS Children’s Village families. The second area is mobile care, for example for families in crisis situations. And the number of people in need of care, says Koch, would increase. Above all, inflation fuels the problem situation. “That doesn’t mean that only children from poor families need socio-educational care. But there is certainly a correlation between financial and social problems,” he says. The psychological stress caused by multiple crises such as the Ukraine war and the climate crisis are also having an effect.
The staff shortage is striking. “In the outskirts such as Braunau or Gmunden, we have sometimes had to turn down official requests for care services because we do not have the capacity,” says Martin Hofer, board member of the association for social education and managing director of the social initiative gem. GmbH. The main problem is, on the one hand, the poor pay, which also differs within the occupational group. For example, social workers in inpatient care are paid less than in nursing.
In addition, there are unattractive and little flexible working hours as well as the already bad personnel situation. Again and again, educators in residential groups would report that they were overwhelmed with the situation and therefore felt helpless or afraid.
The socio-pedagogical associations are mainly financed by the public purse. A first step in the solution is the adjustment of salaries within the professional groups, says Koch. In addition, the care key must be adjusted in the long term. “The question is what our children are worth to us,” says CEO Koch.