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Social Service Workers Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19

Nicole Brown's picture

As COVID-19 continues to impact more individuals and communities, social service workers are on the frontlines of promotive, preventative and treatment services to ensure the health and well-being of the people they serve. In countries where many individuals are infected, workers are ensuring they have access to needed services, providing remote counseling and organizing ways to overcome isolation. In other communities, workers are distributing factual information to dispel myths and fears, reaching out to agencies to assist with preparedness, ensuring inclusive planning efforts and advocating to governments for increased support. 

Read the recently released technical note on Social Service Workforce Safety and Wellbeing during the COVID-19 Response.

A webinar was held on May 14 to review the technical note and learn from country-specific examples of how they are supporting the workforce by developing remote supervision, criteria for determining in-person or remote case management and advocacy strategies to government for workers to be protected and recognized as essential service providers. The full recording and presentations are now available for download.

Resources

A well-supported, appropriately equipped, empowered, and protected social service workforce is essential to mitigating the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social service workers can build on their existing strong ties to children, families, and communities to rapidly respond in ways that are effective. However, to do so, they must stay safe and healthy. The new technical note Social Service Workforce Safety and Wellbeing during the COVID-19 Response provides guidance and recommended actions to support the social service workforce and empower them to safely serve children, families, and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The document is a collaboration between the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, UNICEF, International Federation of Social Workers and Alliance for Children Protection in Humanitarian Action.

Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) tools:

Child protection resources:

Case management resources:

Alternative care and separated children:

Gender-based violence:

Service provision to vulnerable populations:

Working within communities and across sectors:

Communications and key messages:

Webinars and Online Trainings

Role of the Workforce

Most recently, social service workers played a key role in addressing the widespread social impact of Ebola, and a similar response and outreach services will be needed for Coronavirus. As trained community mobilizers and trusted community members, they helped to build awareness and combat myths about Ebola in an intense environment of fear and stigma. Similar to Ebola, any disease outbreak or pandemic brings with it not only physical suffering for those infected, but also feelings of panic, shock, loss, grief, shame, suspicion, and anger to both victims and survivors. Increased challenges and stressors faced during such an emergency--such as food insecurity, loss of family income, interruptions in schooling and access to health care—make matters worse. 

As more and more countries commit the support of their trained health professionals to treat an increasing number of patients, so too must we recognize the importance of social service workers and the many roles they are playing—from raising community awareness to providing social support to patients and survivors—in the midst of this epidemic.

The International Federation of Social Workers has released a document on ethical considerations in decision-making for the workforce to consider for service provision during COVID-19.

Safety and Wellbeing

We remind social service workers to consider their own health and well-being. It is essential that workers remain safe and virus-free in order to not further spread the virus to vulnerable communities and at-risk populations. Several events have been cancelled as precautionary measures, yet there are still many ways to advocate for the profession, such as emailing key messages to high-level dignitaries, conducting webinars, contributing to advocacy and professional organizations or planning for future events.

The National Association of Social Workers in the US has created a list of reliable resources as well as steps for practitioners to support clients, prepare your practice and preventative measures. Technology in Social Work Practice standards is also another helpful resource for practitioners relying on technology for interaction with patients due to social distancing.

*We are updating this page as new resources are made available. We invite social service workers to share relevant resources by commenting on this posting.