COVID-19: the struggle, success and expansion of social work – Rory Truell reflects on the profession’s global response, five months on
IFSW Secretary-General, Rory Truell provides an overview of the first 5 months of the Social Work Response to COVID-19. He says there are clear phases highlighting social workers’ struggles and outcomes:
1. Making governments recognise that a social response is imperative;
2. Advocating for social services to remain open during lockdown;
3. Adapting social services to a new world & managing ethical dilemmas, and
4. Integrating transformative practice.
Dr Truell comments, “What has become clear is that this transformative process, though far from painless, has seen a new rising of the profession”.
Change in the delivery of social services normally takes years. There are exceptions, where political direction coincides with the aspirations of the communities and social services workforce, but these are rare. The journey over the last 5 months is something new: a change at global level caused by a pandemic, where social workers have been and continue to be at the forefront advocating and leading change in nearly every country.
This short piece has been written to start a conversation about such changes. It draws on countless verbal conversations and more than 80 written reports received by IFSW as the social work response to COVID-19 has unfolded.
This is just a beginning. The story of the response has a long way to go. At the time of writing, the full effects of the virus are not yet fully understood in any country, and especially in countries where testing is not commonplace. Understanding the social effects will be process of gradual unfurling. At this unprecedented time, we can only understand what is taking place now and make educated guesses at how families and societies will experience change in their lives. We know there will be long-term economic consequences, which without a change in geo-politics will significantly reduce the quality of life and wellbeing of most of the world’s population.
In these times of uncertainty, social work will strongly advocate that governments must prioritise investment in people, social health and education services and sustainability. We can be confident that the profession will rise to the challenges ahead, as the profession has already risen and influenced. The pages below describe the exchanges, learnings and actions that have taken place as IFSW’s national associations worked quickly together – much faster than governments – to shape social responses that have resulted in the saving of hundreds or thousands of lives.
Rory Truell. IFSW Secretary-General
18th May 2020