Ethical challenges for social workers during Covid-19: A global perspective

Authors Sarah Banks, Tian Cai, Ed de Jonge, Jane Shears, Michelle Shum, Ana M. Sobočan, Kim Strom, Rory Truell, Maria Jesús Úriz, Merlinda Weinberg
Publication date 29 June 2020
Research groups Living and Wellbeing
Type Report


This report summarises the findings of an international study of the ethical challenges faced by social workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, undertaken during 6th-18th May 2020. 607 responses from 54 countries were received via an online survey, additional interviews and local surveys. Six key themes relating to social workers’ ethical challenges and responses were identified: 1. Creating and maintaining trusting, honest and empathic relationships via phone or internet with due regard to privacy and confidentiality, or in person with protective equipment. 2. Prioritising service user needs and demands, which are greater and different due to the pandemic, when resources are stretched or unavailable and full assessments often impossible. 3. Balancing service user rights, needs and risks against personal risk to social workers and others, in order to provide services as well as possible. 4. Deciding whether to follow national and organisational policies, procedures or guidance (existing or new) or to use professional discretion in circumstances where the policies seem inappropriate, confused or lacking. 5. Acknowledging and handling emotions, fatigue and the need for selfcare, when working in unsafe and stressful circumstances. 6. Using the lessons learned from working during the pandemic to rethink social work in the future.

On this publication contributed

  • Ed de Jonge | Researcher | Innovative Social Services
    Ed de Jonge
    • Researcher
    • Research group: Living and Wellbeing

Language English
ISBN/ISSN URN:ISBN:978-3-906820-21-7
Key words covid-19, Social work

Living and Wellbeing