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