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What are the COVID-19 challenges for social services?

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated prevention, control and containment measures pose significant challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated prevention, control and containment measures pose significant challenges to social work provision and the social service workforce.

Examples of the challenges

  • The lockdown being enforced in many countries requires adapting practice through innovative solutions. This includes the need for remote working.
  • For high-risk cases, workers may need to meet clients in-person, where response may pose a greater risk to children or families. In such situations, there is a risk of the worker, children and their families contracting the virus. Workers may experience fear as a result of this risk. They may also fear that their work presents an increased risk of infection to their own household members.
  • Workers may face stigma due to fear that they will introduce the virus to communities.
  • Workers experience the same strains and stressors of the pandemic and confinement as the rest of the population. This includes reduced access to childcare, services, resources and social support networks. These worries may be exacerbated by an increased workload, challenges in accessing children and families in need of support, contradictory information, and the need to adapt their practice and procedures in a short timeframe. The intensity and variety of factors put staff at increased risk of burnout and other forms of psychosocial distress.
  • Workers may experience increased caseloads as a result of the pandemic as measures in place to control the spread of the virus may lead to increased reports and disclosures of child protection incidents.

These examples highlight the need for appropriate training; protective gear; and mental health, psychosocial and well-being support for workers during a pandemic.

The social service workforce:

  • Includes both government and non-government professionals and paraprofessionals— including community workers—who carry out a range of essential promotive, preventative and responsive roles for the protection and well-being of children and families.
  • Must be well supported, appropriately equipped, empowered and protected to mitigate the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children.
  • Must stay healthy to continue supporting children, families and communities in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Your Task

What challenges is the social services workforce facing in your context? Do you identify with the risks outlined above? Are there additional risks to the safety and well-being of workers that have not been mentioned?

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Protecting Children during COVID-19 and other Infectious Disease Outbreaks

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