Internet at our service in times of pandemic: ethical challenges in a «new world»
1Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal; 2Iscte-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa
The current pandemic context has posed a number of challenges for social workers. If, on the one hand, we deal with teleworking models resulting from an entire experience of confinement and a suspension of social life, on the other, SW (re)assumes fundamental contributions in responding to the needs and rights of people, as well as in the production of knowledge that provides ways to bridge and overcome the social inequalities generated and/or reinforced in this scenario (Redondo-Sama et al. 2020).
It is in the complex relationship “Teleworking versus Professional Commitment” that SWorkers describe several ethical challenges such as the construction and continuity of professional relationships, characterized by trust and privacy; prioritization of resource allocation when needs are growing and responses are scarce or nonexistent and diagnostic assessments are brief; follow the policies and guidelines outlined and the use of professional description; and manage emotions as well as exhaustion (Banks et al., 2020).
Thus, based on the guidelines presented in the study by Banks et al.(2020) we intend to analyze in the context of the portuguese social work: i) the main ethical challenges from the perspective of social workers, identifying specificities arising from the pandemic context; ii) limitations in the capacity to respond to the needs of vulnerable publics; iii) the (re)definition of action strategies that counter the constraints encountered; iv) the contributions and limits of the “peer-work” in overcoming such obstacles.
Data collection takes place with an online survey, with open and closed questions (according to the dimensions identified), and participants will be recruited from social networks. The data obtained through the survey's closed questions are subject to treatment and quantitative analysis, with descriptive statistics. Qualitative data are analyzed using the content analysis technique.
The aim of this investigation is to launch clues for the innovation of practices in SW, reflecting on the potentialities and constraints associated with the use of technologies, the challenges for ethically based responses and the “traditional” and “innovative” responses to overcome these situations. It also concludes with the implications for education, with lines of debate and practices to (re) think about the curricula.
Social work, Digital Society and Ethical Training in Times of Uncertainty
Università "G. d'Annunzio" Chieti-Pescara, Italy
Description of the research area: The proposed theme intends to investigate the themes of ethical training in the light of the radical transformations taking place and in progress in digital society also in the face of the need for professional interventions in the great uncertainty caused by epochal events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. This unexpected event has invested, as can be expected, the mental habits of the operators, their approach to work, with almost always uncritical and unconscious adherence to lifestyle changes and the revision of the reference principles.
Research methods used: In the light of these phenomena, reflection develops through the analysis of theoretical and professional practice assumptions, trying empirical evidence and retracing the principles, methods and techniques of the Social Work. In methodological terms, three main areas can be specified relating to the historical perspective, to the evidence of the changes that have taken place and to the future evolutions.
Results and implications for the practice of social work: Stopping or slowing down the process of rapid and continuous transformation of the social, typical of the digital world, is almost impossible. Particular attention must therefore be paid to the reading of what impact this modification may have on consciences and in the scientific-professional approach. Science and conscience are not immutable categories, but have always varied in an almost symbiotic way with the changing of concepts, operating styles, vision of the other, starting with the management of information flows and individual protection in the face of an increasingly wider audience of possible access to communication systems and possible analysis distortions produced by the diffusion of the so-called fake-news.
Finally, a model is required that allows to take note of these transformations and to constantly reflect on ethics, on the adequacy of conduct and on the respect for the fundamental values of the person and human life, also updating the format of the reflective professional at the basis of the Donald Schön's considerations and analysis.
Social work between emergency, ethics and digitalization
Municipality of Chieti and President of the order of Social Assistant in Abruzzo Region, Italy
The Covid 19 emergency represented a completely new, unexpected and unpredictable event for our society. The history of humanity has always been characterized by pandemics, but certainly the unpredictability of this emergency is unprecedented and has resulted in inevitable repercussions at the health, socio-economic, relational and psychological level for the entire world population, and in particular for the most fragile people, highlighting on a global level the need to reshape social work, its organization, approaches and methods of intervention.
The challenge of the emergency has highlighted the ethical and deontological need to implement social policies and social interventions capable of guaranteeing equal access to services to citizens, adequate care for situations of greatest vulnerability and maximum social cohesion, through the promotion of a welfare system with support measures that can be implemented, easily usable and responding to people's needs.
It was possible to implement this by combining two study and intervention plans, namely that of social service in disasters and that of personal and family emergencies. Both have allowed the development of a new cultural and professional environment: the work of the emergency-urgency social service, as a specific professional and disciplinary sector, based on its own method, with a definition of a precise process and with orderly operational sequences.
The job of the social worker is a humanity job based on the relationship with the other people, which has been maintained in the pandemic crisis also with digitalization that allowed not only to implement interventions at a distance, but to avoid social isolation and the loneliness of the people.
This has allowed the rediscovery of the deepest values of our society: cohesion, solidarity, the sense of individual and collective responsibility.
The synergy between political decision-makers, professionals and communities has allowed the construction of an effectively inclusive system of services, with people capable of contributing, according to their abilities, even residual, to the collective well-being for a rebirth of people, from relational, socio-economic and health care.
Social worker specialist - Municipality of Chieti
President of the Order of Social Assistants in Abruzzo Region (Italy)
Pathways toward the digitalisation of social work for crisis preparedness: The case of Romania
1University of Bucharest, Romania; 2University of Bucharest, Romania; 3University of Bucharest, Romania; 4University of Bucharest, Romania; 5University of Bucharest, Romania; 6The State University of New Jersey, USA
At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, many social workers found themselves relying more than even before on internet devices for communicating with clients. While this unexpected reliance on technological tools in performing daily work raised many ethical challenges, such as privacy and client-social worker trust issues (Banks et al., 2020), their existence made it possible for social workers to continue integral parts of their work during the lockdown. The extent to which this increased use of technology can impede or depersonalise the client-social worker relationship is influenced by the level of digitalisation of social work agencies and the digital skills of the social workers and their clients. There is a need to review the technological development of social work systems and fast-forward processes of improvement and innovation at the organisational, practice and educational levels.
The aim of this paper is to analyse the digitalisation of the Romanian social work system and to estimate its capacity to support social work in crisis situations from the perspective of workers. We conducted a national online survey (N=1105) amongst licensed Romanian social workers inquiring about workers’ views concerning digitalisation, finalised in 2017.
The findings show that social workers have similar workplace access to computer devices and internet in both rural and urban areas. However, roughly 33% of respondents had no computer and no internet connection at work when the study was conducted. Compared with those who work in the public sector, those in non-public settings had more access to multiple types of devices. While some believed that efficient digitalisation is possible, most social workers considered the digital literacy of their clients to be limited.
Future developments of the digitalisation of social work should consider local disparities in the access to digital tools and their variety across different types of organisations and locations. To better support the client-worker relationship in crisis situations, innovative approaches to social work digitalisation should consider lessons learnt from COVID-19. SWE can contribute to this process through targeted programs aimed at developing the digital skills of social workers and at adapting practice environments to the requirements of the “new normal”.
Technology for social good: the evaluation of a Digital Social Work Lab
1University of Trieste, Italy; 2University of Siena
This presentation discusses the findings from a research project carried out to evaluate the output and the impact of a Digital Social Work Laboratory.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated an inevitable process of digitalization. Networked communication and digital technologies have been changing the way in which people access and generate knowledge, and a challenge for social work is to harness technological advancements for social good. A recent survey on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Italian social services found that the use of digital technologies was helpful to counteract the negative effects of “physical distancing”, allowing to create new ways of staying connected and empowering social networks. However, limited infrastructures, lack of training, and social work’s traditional reliance on face-to-face communications have been frequently reported as obstacles. Moreover, issues related to both “digital divide” and “digital inequalities” raised ethical dilemmas.
To reflect on potentials and issues involved in the use of digital technologies in social work practice, the University of Siena and the University of Trieste organized a Digital Social Work Lab, activated during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Laboratory involved social work students, professionals and academics in a process of co-construction of knowledge about the use of social media technologies for digital advocacy and macro social work practice. The task was to design and implement technology-infused interventions, that included specific evaluations of the effect of technologies on practice. The participants worked in small heterogeneous groups to conduct an analysis of a targeted issue, draft an intervention and an evaluation plan, and to implement the project. Data collection and data analysis on the emerging potentials and issues were related to four areas: a) social work techniques to foster engagement and active participation b) knowledge and skills for the use of digital technologies c) ethical and legal issues d) the service users experience.
The laboratory was considered as a space for self-learning, reflexivity and learning by doing. The final evaluation is based on indicators to assess the increase of competences in digital advocacy, digital communication, practice evaluation, and the participants’ level of engagement and motivation in digital social work practice
Building Core Competencies and Commitment among social work students through social work skill laboratories to work with marginalized sections of the society
CSRD-Institute of Social Work and Research, India
The present paper is based on the innovative teaching practice followed by presenter at the institute which discusses the importance of social work skill laboratories in professional development of social work students.
Social work profession deals with human being. The main purpose of professional social workers is to help individuals, families, groups and communities for their smooth functioning in society. It is very necessary for social workers to have sound knowledge of social issues and reality, commitment towards social issues, sensitivity about the various marginalized sections of the society and skills to intervene. Social work education in particular and profession in general is going through ups and downs which lead to many challenges for its existence and identity especially in Asian countries. One of the main important aspects in social work profession is students’ professional development as they will be upholding the identity of social work in forth coming future.
Hence, it becomes necessary for us to inculcate proper value system and competency among the students. This value system and competency will bring efficiency and efficacy among students to overcome from the challenges of social work education and profession. All these will be developed if the social workers have strong base of values, principles and awareness about themselves. It is very necessary for social work students to develop their values, principles and self- awareness before going for social work practicum.
Social Work Skills Laboratory sessions helps student social workers to develop their personal and professional self by practicing, analyzing and reflecting their own value system and personal beliefs to strengthen themselves as professional social workers. It also develops an understanding among student social workers about the social work profession. Various aspects in social work skill laboratories lead to develop self- awareness, sensitivity among student social workers and make them aware about the social reality and issues of society.