Beyond Traditional Social Work with Elderly: Reflections From Ukraine in Times of Social Distancing

Tetyana Semigina, Olena Karagodina, Oksana Pozhydaieva


The global COVID-19 pandemic envokes numerous challenges in many areas of societies, including social services. The idea of ‘social distancing’ contradicts the whole idea of social work and inevitably causes deepening social exclusion. This study is aimed to analyse peculiarities of Ukrainian social workers’ activities under severe quarantine restrictions or lockdown. Special attention is paid to local social services for the elderly as a group recognised as most vulnerable to COVID-19.

A survey of representatives of territorial centres of social services in Ukraine, conducted in August 2020, revealed some problems caused by restrictive quarantine measures and positive changes in the centres. The study highlights some surprising contradictions in the impact of the pandemic on social work practice with the elderly. Social services providers in local communities (territorial centres of social services, social services centres for families, children, youth, etc.) received almost no additional support during the quarantine. Yet, they consider introducing new, distant forms of communication, adjusting the work schedule, etc., as positive changes in service provision.

The study determines that the response to the challenges of a problematic situation depends on local characteristics and mostly on human resources – work organisation and professional adaptability. An important role belongs to the ability of social workers to act in emergencies, the availability of standard procedures, protocols, and resources for use in such situations, understanding the need to adhere to values of social solidarity. The specific applications from the study results are drawn for Ukrainian social work.


COVID-19; elderly; lockdown; pandemic; social services

Full Text:



Aman, Q., & Altass, S. (2021). Pre-and Post-COVID-19 condition, performance and future of the airline industry: Evidence from accounting data. Revista Amazonia Investiga, 10(37), 9–23. doi: 10.34069/ai/2021.37.01.1

Beebe, J. (1995). Basic Concepts and Techniques of Rapid Appraisal. Human Organization, 54(1), 42-51.

Bobrova, A., & Lomonosova, N. (2020, November 03). Koronavirus i sotsialnyi zakhyst: mizh reformoiu i kryzoiu [Coronavirus and social protection: between reform and crisis]. Retrieved from (in Ukrainian)
[Боброва, А., & Ломоносова, Н. (2020, Листопад 03). Коронавірус і соціальний захист: між реформою і кризою. URL:].

Czymara, C. S., Langenkamp, A., & Cano, T. (2020). Cause for concerns: gender inequality in experiencing the COVID-19 lockdown in Germany. European Societies, 23(sup1), S68–S81. doi: 10.1080/14616696.2020.1808692

Dauti, M., Dhëmbo, E., Bejko, E., & Allmuça, M. (2020). Rethinking the transformative role of the social work profession in Albania: Some lessons learned from the response to COVID-19. International Social Work, 63(5), 640–645. doi: 10.1177/0020872820940356

Dembitskyi, S. S., Zlobina, O. G., Sydorov, M. V.-S., & Mamonova, H. A. (2020). The state of psychological distress among various social groups in Ukraine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ukrainian Society, 2, 74–92. doi: 10.15407/socium2020.02.074

Goggin, G., & Ellis, K. (2020). Disability, communication, and life itself in the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Sociology Review, 29(2), 168–176. doi: 10.1080/14461242.2020.1784020

Gomza, I. (2020, May 18). Ukraine Rides High While COVID-19 Lays Neighbors Low But For How Long. Retrieved from

Harrikari, T. (Ed.). (2020). COVID-19 and social work: a collection of country reports. Retrieved from

International Labour Organization. (2020). Social protection responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries: Strengthening resilience by building universal social protection. Retrieved from

International Federation of Social Workers. (2020). The Social Work Response to COVID-19 – Six Months On. Retrieved from

Karagodina, O., Pozhidayeva, O., & Semigina, T. (2020). Practice of social work in the conditions of quarantine restrictive measures: rapid appraisal and lessons. Social Work and Education, 7(4), 452-465.

Keddell, E., & Beddoe, L. (2020). The tyranny of distance: The social effects and practice adaptations resulting from Covid-19 lockdown rules. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 32(2). doi: 10.11157/anzswj-vol32iss2id741

Kipgen, N. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic and racism in the United States and India. Economic and Political Weekly, 55(6). Retrieved from

Pentini, A. A., & Lorenz, W. (2020). The Corona crisis and the erosion of “the social” – giving a decisive voice to the social professions. European Journal of Social Work, 23(4), 543–553. doi: 10.1080/13691457.2020.1783215

Rahman, S. Y. (2020). “Social distancing” during COVID-19: the metaphors and politics of pandemic response in India. Health Sociology Review, 29(2), 131–139. doi: 10.1080/14461242.2020.1790404

Semigina, T. (2020). Local Self-Government Transformations in Ukraine and Reforms of Social Services: Expectations and Challenges. Path of Science, 6(1), 1001–1006. doi: 10.22178/pos.54-1

Semigina, T., & Boyko, O. (2014). Social work education in the post-socialist and post-modern era: Global Social Work, 257–270. doi: 10.2307/j.ctv1fxm2q.22

Semigina, T., & Skliar, T. (2020). Vidpovid sotsialnoi roboty na vyklyky pandemii COVID [The response of social work to the challenges of the COVID pandemic]. Paradigmatic view on the concept of world science, 1. doi: 10.36074/21.08.2020.v1.56 (in Ukrainian)
[Семигіна, Т., & Скляр, Т. (2020). Відповідь соціальної роботи на виклики пандемії COVID. Paradigmatic view on the concept of world science, 1. doi: 10.36074/21.08.2020.v1.56].

Skliar, N., Begma, V., & Vrublevska, O. (2021). New challenges for the defense industrial enterprises of Ukraine in the conditions of the global pandemic. Revista Amazonia Investiga, 10(37), 45–55. doi: 10.34069/ai/2021.37.01.4

Strong, P. (1990). Epidemic psychology: a model. Sociology of Health and Illness, 12(3), 249–259. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.ep11347150

Truell, R. (2020, March 26). As Social Workers Work Through the COVID 19 Crisis We Work Towards a Better World. Retrieved from

UNICEF (2020). Social service workforce safety and well-being during the COVID-19 response. Retrieved from

Yakushik, V. (2020). Corona virus crisis in Ukraine. Some interim subjective assessments. Retrieved from

Zhang, Y., Jiang, B., Yuan, J., & Tao, Y. (2020). The impact of social distancing and epicenter lockdown on the COVID-19 epidemic in mainland China: A data-driven SEIQR model study. doi: 10.1101/2020.03.04.20031187

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Tetyana Semigina, Olena Karagodina, Oksana Pozhydaieva

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.