The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) has formed a partnership with the Social Work Ethics Research Group (SWERG) to undertake rapid research on the ethical dilemmas that social workers are experiencing globally when responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
The research collaboration commences next week with a quick turn-around survey (an online information sheet) that will provide initial results that can be used to highlight ethical concerns. The findings can be used to assist social work employers, policy developers and government guidelines in supporting social work practitioners in their critical roles in preventing the spread of the virus and caring for communities during the virus. The partnership has been formed between the IFSW Ethics Commission and the SWERG which comprises expert researchers from Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, UK and USA.
IFSW Secretary-General Rory Truell commented: “We are delighted to form this partnership with well-established international ethics researchers. Social work has been an essential frontline service in the fight against the COVID-19 virus and has contributed to saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Yet, social workers are also facing immerse ethical challenges in contexts where there are shortages of recourses, lack of policies from employers and governments and mass vulnerably experienced by the public”.
Lead researcher Sarah Banks, Professor in the Department of Sociology at Durham University, UK said: “Social workers across the world are encountering many ethically difficult situations, as they practice in risky, constraining and stressful conditions. We know IFSW and national associations of social work have had many requests for advice and support about what to do in impossible situations, with social workers often concerned about ethical and legal ramifications of acting/not acting as instructed by managers, or acting with no support in novel situations. Members of the Social Work Ethics Research Group are pleased to be working with the IFSW Ethics Commission to undertake this survey and develop some guidance that may be of help to social workers”.
IFSW Ethics Commissioner, Dawn Hobdy said, “The IFSW Ethics Commission is grateful to be able to collaborate with SWERG on such an important undertaking. Seeking responses directly from social work professionals that will provide first-hand insight into their true experiences and needs will be vital as we attempt to determine what supports and resources are most vital, globally, during this unprecedented time in our profession’s history”.
The online survey will be launched on Monday, the 27th of April, with responses being submitted by the 18th of May. It will be available in several languages, including Chinese, Dutch, English, Italian, Slovenian and Spanish. Social workers can also request telephone or online conversations to provide their information. All identifying details of participants will remain anonymous unless requested otherwise. Based on the findings, the research team will produce detailed, targeted guidance on ethical decision making for social workers during COVID-19. The results will also be published on the IFSW website as well as in academic publications.