The Social Work Role
In many countries social workers are supporting communities that are affected or fearful of the Covid 19 Virus. Social work has an important role in the fight against the spread of the virus and supporting communities affected by the virus. This includes working at multiple levels, such where decisions are made to advocate together with other professionals for community involvement in planning, safety protocols as well as supporting people with anxieties and in social isolation to remain calm. Social workers also have a key role in disseminating appropriate information and facilitating contexts where people act in solidarity.
In many communities social workers are going to be needed to 1) make sure the most vulnerable are included in planning and response. 2) they can help organize communities to ensure that essentials such as food and clean water are available. 3) social workers need to be the ones at their agencies to step-up and asking “How can we make sure our community members have what they need and are prepared for the consequences of the virus?”, 4) Social workers can organize communication strategies to overcome social isolation. This includes online/phone systems to provide companionship and care. This is especially essential for people and groups at risk.
IFSW has issued a statement saying the extra government funding for social workers and other professionals responding to the virus needs to be realized immediately to support and protect the workforce and communities.
Global IFSW Events
As a global organization, IFSW has planned events in different parts of the world and naturally all involved are concerned about how the Covid Virus will affect these events. IFSW is monitoring the situation and taking corresponding timely action. The Federation has acted quickly in forming a high level of response. This includes the appointment of a Corona Virus Information Officer, compliance with World Health Organisation guidelines, engagement of experts in health, safe meeting protocols and in travel risk.
We are extremely aware of not only putting social workers at risk through their participation at events but also the potentially damage that can be caused should a social worker unknowingly carry the virus back into local environments. Therefore, IFSW sponsored World Social Work Day Events have been cancelled which have involved international participants. IFSW is especially concerned of the spread of the virus into vulnerable high-risk communities with limited resources and over-crowding conditions.
The Federation is constantly monitoring the situation with regards to the IFSW General Meeting and 2020 World Social Work Conference planned for this July in Calgary, Canada. At the date of this communication, the planning processes for both these events is still underway as Calgary is a low infection area and the Canadian government has not cancelled international travel to Canada. IFSW along with our Canadian hosts are developing social hygiene protocols for all participants to maximise protection. This includes a ‘no kiss, no handshake protocol’; that hand sanitizers be widely available for all participants; that information systems of responding to people with illness symptoms are in place; that volunteers and all conference facilitators are trained to support best hygiene practices, that participants will be sent appropriate guidelines before coming to the event and will be asked to comply with any self-isolate guidelines of their home country.
Should the Calgary World conference be cancelled because of the virus, all registrations will be refunded. We also advise participants to carefully check their travel insurance when booking flights and ask what costs will be covered and not covered should the events be cancelled or should there be a need for medical assistance or to prolong the stay in Canada.
If the IFSW General Meeting is cancelled, the IFSW Secretariat will facilitate the process for discussing the most urgent agenda items via an internet platform. We remind everyone that, at this stage, we are planning a safe and responsible event in Canada.
Recommendations for IFSW member activities
Local national associations of social work that are hosting their own events (not organized directly by IFSW) are advised to follow the WHO guidelines and the local authority’s recommendations as well as avoid inviting overseas participants, especially if they will come in contact with vulnerable communities before completing a home quarantine.
IFSW will update this page as necessary. On the right are links from IFSW member organisations describing their work and role in the context of the virus. We welcome other IFSW members and social workers to send us their news at