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SWO, Police Cooperation
People

SWO, Police Cooperation

TTwo of the emergency hotlines in the country are increasing their cooperation. The Police Department’s emergency number (110) and the Social Welfare Organization’s (SWO) hotline (123) have much in common to step up their cooperation in addressing social ills, said Habibollah Masoudi, deputy at the SWO. The cooperation is mutually beneficial and rewarding.
‘’In some cases the SWO needs police assistance in its operations and the latter also benefit from social workers’ help,’’ said Masoudi, in an interview with ISNA. He added that the two offices are planning “to exchange knowledge and experience.”
Following the meetings with the police, the SWO ambulances obtained permits to move in special traffic zones. ‘’We believe that even a single case of child abuse can be ‘like a sudden heart attack’ which needs emergency help; that is why it’s important our ambulances have access to special traffic zones,’’ he said. The much needed cooperation comes in handy when SWO social workers face violent confrontations during some of their missions.
The SWO hotline was created in 1992 with a 7 digit number but then was expanded to a nationwide line in 2008 with a three digit number: 123.
Masoudi noted that between 1992 and 2008 the service began building infrastructure, training human resources and buying vehicles. The social emergency number could be launched in cities with a population of more than 50,000 people, he said, and expressed hope that it would be launched in towns with a smaller population as well. ‘’In the meanwhile, the people of smaller towns can call the adjacent cities’ hotline for help,” he said.
‘’Last year we had a $5 million budget but this year our budget has increased to $11 million; a considerable amount of which is allocated for salary of experts and councilors.”
He said 300 vehicles in different provinces belong to the SWO, adding that out of 120,000 calls to the center, nearly 50,000 require ambulances to be sent. At times, their experts have to be dispatched just to find out the validity of the calls.
‘’If our social workers face any resistance then police assistance is sought,’’ Masoudi said.

 Uniqueness
Masoudi noted that the work by the SWO hotline “is unprecedented in the Middle East” and Iran is the only country in the region where such work is undertaken. “In countries like Canada the approach to problems like child abuse is a medical and police issue, but in Iran, these problems are viewed through social lenses and thus tackled through social work,’’ he said. Iran’s hotline service can be a model for regional countries.
He added that the priority for SWO is to train its staff and enhance services. ‘’We have held more than 30 training workshops since the start of the year,’’ he said.
About methods used by the social workers, Masoudi said ‘’our staff don’t try to play the role of law enforcement officers and thus they do not need to use tasers; if the need arises for any kind of enforcement, police force will enter the scene.’’  
Self-defense tools like pepper sprays have been provided for the staff but they have not been delivered yet, “since our first priority is training- for instance how our social workers can confront an aggressive person to calm the situation.’’ 

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