The final report presents the data collected during phase two of Reopening Ireland/Easing Lockdown Restrictions (9th - 29th June), the third and final phase of data collection of the IASW Social Work During Covid-19 Survey. The report presents the key findings from the survey data before presenting the responses to each question and comparison across the three phases of data collection. A discussion section and information on those who participated in the survey can be found at the end of the report.
Social workers are worried. Two out of three social workers are worried about the challenges they face in providing a service. During lockdown, this was a worry for one in three social workers. As the ongoing implications of the pandemic, and of public health restrictions on human contact and physical closeness, become clearer, the worries and challenges for social workers have increased. The overriding worry for social work is that those who need a social work service and supports are not getting what they need. Social workers are profoundly concerned about the impact of the loss of face to face to contact with individuals and families in need of a service.
Throughout the survey, social workers saw that the absence of, and drastic reduction in, essential support services coupled with the reduced access to personal networks during restrictions, dramatically increased the risks and stresses experienced by many already struggling. In simple terms, the situation of the most marginalised worsened over the seven-week period of data collection. In addition, the limitations of online working have severely impacted the nature and effectiveness of social work services and the foundations on which professional decisions are based.
Social workers adapted and responded at local and organisational levels, finding creative ways to connect with clients and provide a service. However, their needs analysis, innovations and learning often remained local or organisational as there has been an absence of involvement of social work expertise at national planning level. The absence of the social work perspective and expertise at this level means that the needs of the most marginalised and those made more vulnerable by the pandemic are not seen and heard.
‘Human rights being upheld – risk is overshadowing people’s rights without adequate discussion with patients & carers.’
‘Feel unsupported by employer, managing child protection from home without access to files.’
‘Families (many of whom are over 70) are very tired now having cared for their son/daughter full time with no break and limited help for four months and also in the knowledge that there is very limited access to long term residential placements.’
Care planning meetings not always appropriate virtually due to things like difficult family dynamics, sensitive topics being discussed or cognitive impairment of service user or family member.’
‘… Online platforms very different to bringing a group together where people can ‘hold’ each other in support.’
‘Not being able to freely do home visits where you normally get a better feel for the family situation.’
‘Challenge of working from home at full tilt, challenge of managing staff remotely.’
‘Managing boundaries of having work information in personal space, some of which is distressing to read.’
‘Elimination of work based professional informal social support networks due to homeworking, resulting in reduction in resilience and increased stress.’
‘Long delays in getting remote access and then being expected to use own laptop or have a desktop provided.’
‘‘Worried that many families are places where children are not safe and with the current restrictions we do not have the same visibility or ability to provide immediate protection.’
‘I am concerned that social workers are unable to visit some of the most vulnerable children’
‘Going on socially distanced walks with clients who are able or window chats if the neighbours can’t hear!’
‘Have managed to get a brain injured population onto Zoom and run Zoom sessions one to one and in a group.’
‘I found the document from IASW helpful – “Beyond the Door” example especially. As a lot of older people are feeling isolated from family. This helped me work with my patients and they said this technique helped them.’
‘Collaborative working, it is amazing how quickly projects and processes can be implemented when there is funding and buy in from stakeholders.’
‘Much of our work is meeting face to face with people. I am concerned that managers who are not social workers will put barriers to us meeting people (even if this is done in a safe way after our own risk assessments, due to their own fears about Covid, I fear that our professional judgement is being taken away from us and we cannot make decisions until they are okayed.’
‘A lot of human rights issues raised, lack of visits for residents in nursing homes, prisoners and social isolation of same.’
‘No consideration was given to my personal and family circumstances and the demands placed upon me. This has been a truly traumatic time and my personal health been negatively impacted. I feel completely unsupported by my organisational and this has resulted in me deciding to leave social work.’