Social Work, Covid-19 and Hope

hope on the beach

Do you remember when at the end of the 6 weeks holiday on one hand you dreaded going back to school, but on the other you were looking forward to seeing your mates again and falling back into the routine? As we start to come out of lockdown, for us, it feels a bit like that.

Last year, inspired by Neil Crowther (himself inspired by the former New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk) we wrote about how big Hope would be in 2020 as one of four outcomes for people with learning disabilities. Somewhere to call home, an interesting job, someone to love and hope that good things are coming. Home, Work, Love and Hope. Over the last two months New Zealand’s current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has continued this trend in making our common humanity central to her leadership during Covid-19. More than we could have ever imagined, hope matters in 2020.

Covid-19 is in general circulation across the globe. Whilst we are starting to realise that we can’t go back to how it was before, we are seeing glimpses of hope that there might be ways to help us recover if we get it, and may be, somewhere in the future, there might be a vaccine. We are finding time to properly stop, breathe and begin to pay remembrance to those we have loved and lost. And we are beginning to be able to think, to critically assess and reflect on the level to which social economic and health structural inequalities are involved in how it is falling on our communities, neighbourhoods and on people with learning disabilities.

Social work at its best is relational, guided by social work’s ethical framework and mediated by individual social workers professional, and personal, values in action. The pandemic is a great leveller, Social Work may be a profession, but individual social workers, like everyone else, are affected at a personal level. To be able to provide hope, you first have to feel hopeful yourself. Social work leaders and managers have a big job over the coming months supporting our workforce to feel hopeful so that they can then impart this in their practice as they support others. So here are three things we are doing to support our social workers to feel hopeful:

  1. Supervision – we are making sure that supervisions are happening. Making space for personal conversations about are they OK, have they taken a break since this started, do they need any support to help them and their families. As lockdown eases, walking supervision is starting, promising emotional and physical wellbeing.
  2. Team Contacts – we are using technologies to keep human to human contact between team members. Zoom for bigger, planned team meetings and webinar CPD sessions that contribute to Social Work England continued professional registration requirements. Whatsapp for informal small group chats about ethical issues and moral questions. Teams for intra-professional discussions with health colleagues. Google Meet for wider partnership teams to keep in contact. Facebook and other social media to inclusively build a team around the family which families are central to.
  3. Collaboration – social workers are at their most enthusiastic when they are bouncing ideas between each other. Testing their ideas and professional boundaries. Being able to work with others on creative new ways of working. We have actively encouraged collaborative projects over the last few months which have seen social workers community fundraising, collating and distributing Easter and Eid gift packs to people with learning disabilities, young people and their families. Including in them creative things for families to do together such as bun baking and sunflower seed growing kits. Getting note books out to keep people connected who would be otherwise totally socially isolated. Making music videos in collaboration with the people they support celebrating friendship and hope. We will all get by with a little help and a little hope.

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