Erfurt, 11 June 2020 - What impact does the Corona pandemic have on social work workers? This question was the focus of an online survey* with around 2,000 social work employees. The first trends of the study conducted by Prof. Dr. Christina Buschle and Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Meyer make it clear: two out of three respondents state that protective equipment is lacking at the workplace and that they do not feel sufficiently recognised in their work by society. In addition, the majority of respondents expect that the consequences of Corona in social work will only become apparent in the coming weeks and months.


The Corona pandemic exacerbates the work situation

For 43% of the interviewees, work has become more compressed in the course of the Corona pandemic and previously applicable professional standards have changed. According to the study, child protection institutions such as the Youth Welfare Office in particular have noticed a significant decrease in face-to-face contact, whereas contact by telephone, email and messenger has increased. The respondents from youth welfare offices, emergency housing assistance and elementary education criticise this development particularly harshly, as it does not do justice to the people concerned. "Because important structural and supportive elements of everyday life are disappearing in the course of the lockdown, many respondents assume that the living situation of their clients will become increasingly worse," says Meyer. "This, in turn, would mean that the actual extra work would still be rolling in."

Accordingly, the respondents expect the extent of the Corona pandemic to hit social work only in the coming months, with 55% assuming greater demand for specific social work services (e.g. for homeless people and those with mental illnesses).


Lack of protective equipment for staff

At the same time, it is clear that requirements such as a distance of 1.5 metres for self-protection can only be realised by half of the respondents. At the same time, two-thirds (70%) lack protective equipment at the time of the survey (mainly personal protective equipment such as face masks and/or disinfectants). Nevertheless, more than 60% of the respondents continue to work directly with their addressees in the facilities.


Only one third of respondents are satisfied with social recognition

Even though 55% say that their work has been officially classified as relevant to the system, the respondents still experience little recognition from society. Only 38% are satisfied with the current recognition of their activity. In addition, the open answers show that the lack of social recognition is particularly severe for those who are doubly burdened by caring for their own children. "Here, from the perspective of the employees, the social and political disregard for social work becomes abundantly clear," says Buschle.

The first results are now being published in the journal "Soziale Passagen". "We are pleased about the publication in a recognised leading medium and the option of open access, so that all study participants can also view the trends," say Buschle and Meyer.


* For the non-representative study, data on the current employment situation, the implementation of hygiene measures and contact with the addressees were collected from 7 to 15 April 2020. Around 2,300 employees from the social work sector participated throughout Germany. 1,870 fully completed questionnaires were used for the calculations.


Publication on the study

Buschle, C. & Meyer, N. (2020): Soziale Arbeit im Ausnahmezustand?! Profession-theoretical research notes on the Corona pandemic. Social Passages (1). doi: 10.1007/s12592-020-00347-0


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