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Delivering social work during the COVID-19 outbreak

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in focus across the country, we should all take the time to recognise those who cannot stop delivering the important work and support they do. 

Qualified social workers, as well as many care and support staff, are on the frontline and will be taking risks to keep vital services running for children, vulnerable adults, families and the elderly.

The government has emphasised this, stating in COVID-19 guidance published on 13 March 2020:

Provision of care and support in people’s home is a high priority service, in that most care and support cannot be deferred to another day without putting individuals at risk of harm. It is therefore vital that these services are prioritised.

Here’s a summary of how COVID-19 may have already impacted your role and what you should be preparing for.

 

Courses, regulation and registration

Social Work England, the new social work regulator, has a dedicated webpage where it has responded to immediate concerns. It has said it will be as flexible as it can when it comes to regulation for placements and course provision, which could affect students, placement providers and social work educators.

Similarly, the specialist regulator has issued a joint statement on 3 March from chief executives of statutory regulators of health and care professionals on how they will carry out their roles during this time.

Following the emergency legislation issued by the government on 19 March, there has been an urgent appeal issued by Social Work England for people to re-join the profession. Given that social workers protect millions of people every day, the regulator will be contacting 8,000 former social workers and setting up a temporary register to ensure people across England can continue to receive the best possible support during the crisis.

 

Visiting cases

It’s important to follow government advice, exercise common sense and flexibility around visiting and meeting others. Public Health England guidance states that if a social worker or other professional is due to make a home visit to a family that has not shown symptoms of the coronavirus, the visit may go ahead as normal.

All social workers, community and residential care staff should check if the individual is in self-isolation before any visits are made, as well as if they are asymptomatic or symptomatic. The government has added that if the individual is self-isolating and a visit is deemed necessary, then a full risk assessment should be undertaken with managers and an infection control specialist, in order to decide the best course of action.

All social workers and other visiting professionals must be trained in hand hygiene, washing their hands for 20 seconds both before and after each visit.

Colin Angel, policy director for United Kingdom Homecare Association, announced on 9 March that home care visits for social workers could take “well longer than the usual expected time while dealing with people who are unwell”. He added that social workers need to brace themselves for extra administrative work as cases continue to rise.

Social Work England also advises that social workers continue to follow national guidance regarding workplaces, social work settings and social work courses, and discuss any concerns with their employer and course provider. If you know or suspect you are infected, you should follow the current public health advice, including self-isolation.

 

Your wellbeing

The safety and wellbeing of all social workers is paramount. It’s understandable that the coronavirus crisis will pose complex professional challenges and additional pressure for social workers, given that the length of time the crisis may go on for is currently unknown. This can be a very stressful time, especially if colleagues are ill or self-isolating. Those with caring responsibilities, and all practitioners, are likely to face an increased burden in helping the UK through the outbreak should the virus spread further.

This can impact of the physical and mental health of social workers. Along with taking appropriate measures to limit the spread of the virus among staff, employers should be encouraged to support and prioritise mental health and wellbeing in the face of these difficult circumstances. Having good support from your employer can make all the difference when it comes to morale, particularly if you’re also surrounded by a great team.

As per government advice, if you have pre-existing health conditions that place you at increased risk of infection, you should discuss working arrangements with colleagues and your employer.

 

With nearly 100,000 social workers across England, now more than ever is the time to remain vigilant. All health and care professionals will play a vital role in helping to treat and contain coronavirus.

Reed Qualified Social Workers can support you if you’re looking to progress as a social worker or if you’re looking to add a dedicated practitioner to your team. Find your nearest office here.

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