Reflecting on the Covid-19 pandemic, the field of child protection, and World Social Work Day 2022
It has been two years since South Africa went into national lockdown as a measure to delay the infection rate of the Covid-19 virus in the country. It has also been two years of the social workers at Badisa Trio being on the frontline, ensuring the protection of vulnerable children and families during a global pandemic. The implications of the Covid-19 virus, the lockdown, and the restrictions that followed had a tremendous impact on communities in general but even more so on our vulnerable communities. No one was prepared to work through a pandemic. Social workers needed to develop a different way of working to maintain physical distance from colleagues and clients and still ensure that quality services were offered in the communities. Social workers were in a unique position during the pandemic to promote disease prevention efforts, but also to assist in addressing anxiety and other concerns that were arising as a consequence of this public health crisis. In addition to this, social workers were engaged in crisis management to ensure the safety of vulnerable children whilst sourcing donations of food and clothes and then distributing these items in a way that was safe for all involved. Many people thought that once a vaccine was developed and people were vaccinated, life would return to “normal”. However, the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our communities included issues of increased unemployment, poverty, crime, domestic violence, mental health issues, and physical health issues.
Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic led to social workers experiencing various ethical challenges, and whilst dealing with ethical dilemmas is something social workers deal with regularly, these challenges were different from before. Some of these challenges included the issue of developing trusting relationships with clients using technology rather than in-person contact, concerns around confidentiality when using technology, managing the increasing needs of clients which escalated due to the pandemic and the effects thereof, and ensuring the safety and protection of vulnerable children whilst facing so many barriers including lack of in-person contact, wearing of masks, etc. Social workers have also been struggling with their mental health, fatigue, and burnout due to the increase in workloads, stressful changes in the work environment, and personal struggles such as losing family members, etc. Yet despite all these challenges, social workers have continued to serve communities selflessly. They have displayed resilience in the way that they have bounced back despite the adverse conditions of both the field of child protection and the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. When reflecting on the strength, determination, and discipline of the social workers at Badisa Trio, I am reminded of a quote by Janna Cachola. She maintains that “resilience is not about being able to bounce back as nothing has happened. Resilience is your consistent resistance to give up”. This is exactly what social workers have been doing. They refuse to give up on themselves or their clients. So today, on Social Work Day, we would like to salute our unsung heroes, the social workers of Badisa Trio.
World Social Work Day is the one day when the world acknowledges, celebrates, and honours the contribution of social workers to our society. Social workers play an important role in ensuring social justice and involving people and structures to deal with various challenges and enhance the well-being of individuals and communities. The theme for this year’s World Social Work Day is, “Co-building a New Eco-Social World: Leaving No One Behind”. This theme offers us a strategy to develop innovative international values, policies, and practices that foster trust, security, and confidence for all people, whilst also focusing on the sustainability of our planet. The theme, therefore, highlights that the social work profession encourages the participation of all social work organisations and communities where social workers are at work. This means that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect and encouraged to participate in decisions that involve them to facilitate empowerment and ownership. This would lead to the basic needs of communities being met and the human rights of all citizens being fulfilled. However, this concept of leaving no one behind does not only refer to the clients that we serve but also to social work professionals. Leaving no one behind means making sure that we support each other, share our knowledge and skills with each other, and celebrate each other’s victories. No social worker should be left behind.
In conclusion, I would like to encourage everyone to live by this year’s Social Work Day theme – let us leave no one behind! Support, inclusion, and participation are crucial.
Dr Jessica Johannisen
Social Work Lecturer
Ph.D. in Social Work