World Social Work Day 2021: social work under Covid


The past year has been one nobody ever expected, with the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic having rippled across the globe.


This World Social Work Day, we look to other countries as to how the pandemic has affected them, their social workers and particularly, those in need of social work and care.


We spoke to four different organisations across Canada, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand to find out about the role of social workers in their countries over the past year and the impact of Covid-19 on practitioners…

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Canada is a geographically vast and diverse country, spanning the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Great Lakes to the south, with its citizens spread across urban, rural and remote areas.


This geographic diversity is matched by the social diversity of its population, encompassing indigenous peoples, the descendants of English and French settlers and those of more recent waves of immigrants from across the globe.


As in other parts of the world, Covid-19 has affected this diverse population unequally and forced the country to consider how it provides for its most disadvantaged citizens, Joan Davis Whelan, president of the Canadian Association of Social Workers, told Community Care


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new zealand

New Zealand

The small island nation of New Zealand has fared extremely well during the pandemic, with just 26 deaths, owing to a “hard and fast” six-week lockdown in March and the sealing of the borders.


Speaking to Community Care from her campervan, Anne MacAulay, professional adviser at Aotearoa New Zealand Association for Social Workers, said New Zealand was in “its own little bubble from the world”.


One of the biggest concerns before New Zealand locked down in March was that safeguarding issues wouldn’t be picked up because children weren’t going to school. But, there hasn’t been a surge in cases reported post-lockdown, she said.


The biggest stress now when MacAuley speaks with social workers is the concern from clients, especially young clients, about what will happen if New Zealand goes back into lockdown and they have to stay in an unsafe household…


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United Arab Emirates

In the United Arab of Emirates (UAE), the pandemic has badly affected expatriates (88.5% of the population), particularly those in blue-collar jobs, who are often on low wages, living in cramped conditions and lacking access to healthcare.


Khaoula Benothman and Anamika Misra, lecturers in social work and health science at the UAE’s Higher Colleges of Technology, said many had been forced to leave as a result, while school-based social worker Priya Mitchell said others were in fear of losing their jobs and cut off from families abroad.


Mitchell, school counsellor and designated safeguarding lead at The British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi, also expressed her fears about rising child mental health problems and the challenges of remote child protection practice, in cases where children were in fear about disclosing issues over video conferencing…


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