The corona epidemic is reflected in social work clients as loneliness and difficulties in financial management and life management. According to the new Social Barometer, social workers are most concerned about families with children, young people and people with many problems in their lives who need support. Lack of face-to-face meetings resulted in contact being maintained with clients in unusual ways. New solutions have also been introduced for food and service assistance.
The corona epidemic is hampering social work clients’ access services as services were interrupted and transferred, for example, online. Many social work clients remained home with little information and advice available to them. According to social workers, the key problem for clients during the corona epidemic is loneliness, which was highlighted by up to 45% of respondents. Respondents were also concerned about problems clients were experiencing in managing their finances and lives.
Will the new support measures implemented during the corona epidemic remain permanent fixtures?
In social work, the situation was responded to by increasing support offered at home. Social workers have also telephoned clients more often than previously to help in the processing of their matters. Regular telephone calls can be used to reach clients who are at home when it is not possible for them to visit the office.
As the need for food assistance has increased, social workers and social instructors have cooperated with organisations and parishes. For example, food bags, gift cards and crafts have been delivered to clients’ homes. An abundance of new practices related to food, pharmacy and shopping assistance have been established.
In smaller municipalities, familiar networks and volunteers, such as family members and neighbours, complement the assistance provided by the authorities. Minna Kivipelto, Research Manager at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare believes that the work methods now in use can also be utilised in the future.
”The working methods of social work have been developed for a long time, and information on effective methods is available in a fairly comprehensive manner. Even so, for example, on-site and outreach work are not very widely used. Resources and organisational practices are often cited as reasons. During the corona epidemic, many changes became mandatory when face-to-face interaction had to be discontinued. It should be ensured that the work methods and operating methods that have been found to be effective are not abandoned after the epidemic,” says Kivipelto.
”Social workers felt that the development of work practices was very positive. The need for changes brought about by corona introduced a view that work methods could and had to be changed to correspond with the circumstances. The situation has actually empowered employees and given them a mandate to work from the client’s point of view,” continues Pekka Karjalainen, Senior Advisor at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
In small areas, social work reacts quickly to changes in a client’s situation
Social workers view the response to the service needs of almost all client groups more positive in small areas with a population of under 20,000. For example, the needs of children in need of child welfare can best met in areas with clearly fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. Up to 80 per cent of social workers in small areas reported that they have been able to meet their clients’ service needs well or fairly well. Similarly, less than half of social workers feel this way in medium-sized regions and only 28% in large regions.
”Based on the responses, it seems that housing support needs can also be better met in small areas than in larger ones,” adds Researcher Erja Koponen from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
The only exception was responding to the service needs of immigrants in need of support, which is seen most positively in large areas with a population of over 200,000.
Examples of social workers’ open responses concerning means of communication during corona:
”Today, I am going for my first walk with a client and a social instructor to update the client’s plan.”
”I have supported clients with poor mental health with telephone calls to make sure that they are alive and somehow able to manage their everyday lives.”
”Extending the opening hours of the chat service, where necessary, a psychiatric nurse responding to the chat service.”
”Applications are already reflecting the corona situation, with new applications having been submitted by indebted and unemployed persons. We expect a backlog in rent debts, etc. in the summer/autumn.“
”Microsoft Teams meetings in place of face-to-face meetings. Not all clients want to meet face to face fearing that they will get sick, so electronic meetings have been good.“
The themes were discussed in the Social Barometer 2020 webinar. Webinar recording (in Finnish): https://www.soste.fi/tapahtuma/sosiaalibarometri-2020/
- Pekka Karjalainen, Senior Specialist, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare firstname.lastname@example.org, +358 (0)29 524 7055
- Minna Kivipelto Research Manager, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, email@example.com, +358 (0)29 524 7760
- Erja Koponen, Researcher, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare firstname.lastname@example.org, +358 (0)29 524 7666
- Implementation of Social Barometer 2020: Anne Eronen, Researcher, SOSTE, the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health, email@example.com, +358 40 6789 441