Thinking on their feet: social workers adapt to life with COVID-19

As soon as we saw the jokes about bumping elbows and feet instead of shaking hands, we should have seen that things were changing. At that point, few people really believed that coronavirus would turn the world upside down, and that the UK would follow the global frontrunners into lockdown. Yet here we are.

Social work on the front line

At Pertemps Professional Recruitment (PPR), we’re gratified rather than surprised that social work has been highlighted as such a critical part of the government’s anti-outbreak strategy. Whether accelerating hospital discharges or supporting vulnerable people in our communities, social workers are high on the list of key, frontline workers.  

The challenge of social distancing

Among one of the many challenges faced by social workers during this crisis is the impact of the government’s essential measures on core practice. Dr Godfred Boahen, Policy and Research Officer, British Association of Social Workers raises asks we can protect vulnerable service users from the lack of contact during lockdown. After all, relationships are understood to rely on “physical contact within the same space. It is probably for this reason that ‘the home visit’ is such an important part of social work practice”.

Fortunately, most of us have access to technology which can help. Dr Boahen urges social workers to use digital technology “in creative ways to initiate, maintain and sustain relationships to meet the emotional and therapeutic needs of people who use services”.

Culture is crucial

In a recent article in Forbes magazine, Heather McGowan says that the organisations who will adapt best to the coronavirus outbreak will have a strong sense of their own culture. Answering three fundamental questions will help with this: Why do you exist? How does the world look differently because you exist? What will and won’t you do to achieve your objectives?

Desire to help

In this respect, social work appears to have done its homework. In a recent survey of PPR workers, we asked what made them become social workers. The overwhelming response was a desire or compulsion to help and care for others.

Positive impact

The answers also provided real and immediate evidence of how their work impacts the world: a satisfactory outcome in court, ensuring that an 11 year old foster child learnt to read, and coordinating with doctors and nurses while working in NHS teams illustrate the clear outcomes social workers see on a day to day basis.

Keep going

Similarly, emergency powers to bring back over 8,000 previously registered social workers, in addition to ‘business as usual’ key frontline workers) underlines the passion and dedication behind the reality that there is very little that social workers will and will not do to keep going.

Agile thinking

In response to the ‘new normal’ we’re all experiencing, PPR is also helping as much as we can. Some of our workers are understandably anxious about getting hold of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and we will be distributing our stock of masks, gloves and hand sanitisers across the country as soon as possible. We’re doing our best, like everyone else, to think and act with agility – hats off to the airline staff who are transferring their skills and supporting the NHS workers at the new Nightingale hospital in east London. If we can think on our feet to solve problems as they arise, we hope to support our frontline workers every day as we work through this crisis together.

Pertemps Professional Recruitment places social workers within public and private organisations throughout the UK. We’re proud of our reputation for high standards and empathetic approach towards our workers and the employers we introduce them to.

We never lose sight of what really matters: providing outstanding service to our candidates and clients who provide help to society’s most vulnerable children and adults. We know that our workers often experience tough and challenging circumstances, and we’re aware that the coronavirus outbreak is making this harder than ever.