Vargas bats for more social workers' benefits in 'gratitude' bill

A measure that seeks to give additional benefits to social workers amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has been filed in the House of Representatives.

(Photo from Alfred Vargas's Facebook)

House Bill (HB) No. 10810, filed by Quezon City 5th district Rep. Alfred Vargas, recognizes public social workers' "vital and valuable work in the delivery of social services to the Filipino people" during the health crisis.

Vargas noted that while government has extended hazard pay and special risk allowance to frontliners during the pandemic, there are “gaps in these important landmark legislations" and that "social workers are denied the treatment they rightfully deserve".

“This measure recognizes these statutory gaps and the challenges that public social workers face the pandemic, especially on the delivery of social services to the people,” he said.

Among the added benefits included in the Vargas bill are fixed monthly special risk allowances, active hazard duty pays, and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) coverage on all work-related medical expenses.

The bill also provides these "heroic" social workers with life insurance coverage, and shoulders the cost of their accommodation, transportation, and meals, or their cash equivalent.

Aside from the P1 million as compensation in case of death, Vargas also proposes the payment of P100,000 in case of severe COVID-19 sickness; and P15,000 in case of mild or moderate COVID-19 case.

“It is the hope of this measure to provide better working conditions and more just and equitable benefits for social workers in the country, which would, in turn, inspire them as they accomplish their duties with care and compassion,” he said, adding, "This bill is a return of gratitude."

The additional benefits cover all registered social workers in government service, including those whose services are engaged through job orders or contracts of service.

Funding for the benefits shall be sourced from the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund, and other sources identified by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Subsequent implementation of the law shall be supported by annual appropriations.

Vargas had earlier filed a bill extending additional benefits for health workers and other medical frontliners.

"Social workers have been helping us day in, day out during this pandemic. They have been very diligent, providing social services despite the risks to their and their family's health... shows our collective appreciation for their work—that we value the immeasurable good that they do for our fellow Filipinos," Vargas said.