Since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, social workers have encountered several difficulties to keep providing care to people who need them. In Mauritius, the epidemic has exacerbated challenges for those with mental health issues, addictions, poverty, homelessness, and violence, thus increasing the importance of social work in society.
To provide quality services throughout the pandemic, social workers are usually forced to make tough decisions and adapt to new approaches to working. However, to understand how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected social work, it is first essential to understand social work and its importance in Mauritian’s society.
Social work is a practice-based career and field of study that fosters social change, development, cohesiveness, and empowerment. Understanding human growth, behaviour, social, economic, cultural structures, and relationships is part of social work practice.
Therefore, social workers aim to enhance people’s lives by assisting them with social and interpersonal issues and advocating human rights and wellness. They help a wide range of people while emphasising the vulnerable, oppressed, and those living in poverty.
The day-to-day responsibilities of social workers include recognising people’s needs, strengths, and wants, dealing closely with people and families to assist them in making changes and solving issues, arranging support, providing suggestions or referrals to other services and agencies, and maintaining detailed records. They may also be expected to engage in legislative procedures that generally result in establishing social policies, depending on their expertise, job title, and place of employment. Their work is often based on social work values and principles and academic research.
Social workers can be found in a wide range of workplace settings, such as schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, private practices, prisons, the military, companies, and various public and private organisations. Areas of specialisation usually dictate where and how they work.
Areas of Specialisation in Social Work
- Management and administration – Social work administrators have an active role in public and private organisations that provide services to people. Administrators share many aspects of this field of social work practice with other companies. The social workers also need to understand the social policy and service delivery, a strategy for future planning, a grasp of human behaviour, and a dedication to social work ethics and morals.
- Community Organisation and Advocacy – One of the pillars of social work practice is advocacy. Social work activists advocate rights to establish social justice.
- Ageing – Social workers can help older people enhance their quality of life and involvement in society by providing them with resources that allow them to live independently.
- Children – Child protection social workers work with some of society’s most vulnerable children, adolescents, and families. They specialise in enhancing families’ strengths and assisting them in providing a secure and caring environment for children and adolescents. Social workers can also help parents with developmental disabilities to special services that support the children to become independent.
- Healthcare – People can benefit from the assistance of professionally trained social workers in dealing with personal and social issues that impact health and wellness.
While some social workers continue to work face-to-face with people, many are forced to shift online. Services are now being provided over the phone or via video calls. However, many social workers are concerned about technology’s benefits.
Research has found that may limit their ability to identify problems or raise concerns with those receiving social care or assistance. Social workers may find it harder to know about the problem or situation while working online wholly.
On the other hand, working face-to-face with people is an effective method for recognising potential issues, such as the possibility of domestic violence or self-neglect, as they are better able to observe the person and their environment. But interacting with younger people online can be easier as they may be more comfortable with the new technologies. Online activities can also be organised to help the latter with their mental health issues.
Finally, the social workers working face-to-face must face some challenges. While all social workers must take all the necessary precautions, working with so many people increase their chances of contracting the Covid-19 virus.
Even if the Covid-19 pandemic has created some challenges for social workers, whether done face-to-face or online, social work should not be stopped. Those working online must ensure that they are interactive enough, while that working face-to-face must take all the necessary precautions.
Mansi Thaneswari Hursahye, YUVA Intern and Psychological Science student at Curtin University (Mauritius)