Nunavik program offers vital social work training

Trial project targets Inuit helpers

By SARAH ROGERS

Nunavik social workers can now count on better support and training through a pilot project that will be offered close to home.

Launched last month, the two-year program is designed to develop counselling and social work skills among Inuit who are helping social workers from the South in Nunavik.

“One of the comments I hear is that social workers feel isolated and alone in their villages,” said the program’s manager, Claude Lévesque, who worked for many years with youth and group homes in Nunavik.

“This program will really help [Inuit social workers] to identify the problems they face; how children are involved, the legal aspects, mental health issues… and how to intervene.”

Over the coming year, 25 to 30 Inuit social workers will receive 100 hours of training through intensive workshops and mentoring sessions hosted in different villages, Lévesque said.

The hope is that local workers with better training will provide better support to non-Inuit social workers, and in turn promote more workplace stability in a field plagued by high staff turnover.

The 2007 report from Quebec’s human rights commission said Nunavik’s social workers – Inuit and non-Inuit — need more support.

And the provincial health department then approached Cégep Marie-Victorin in Montreal to develop the training.

Michel Pruneau, an academic advisor at Marie-Victorin, said the program will rely on video-conferencing to communicate with its Nunavik-based students — particularly when Internet upgrades allow for the use of tools like Skype.

Those who complete the program won’t earn a diploma, but Pruneau said the program plans to offer credits that participants from Nunavik can continue on to obtain a degree in social work.

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