Courage, Compassion, Corecion, and COVID

Authors: Parker, J. and Ashencaen Crabtree, S.

Conference: Courage and Innovations in Social and Youth Work SocNet98

Dates: 19-22 April 2021


During the pandemic the British public adopted the practice of applauding National Health Service (NHS) workers on Friday evenings, a practice of collective gratitude that we have seen in other countries. However, many other key workers were also at risk of contracting the disease in the course of carrying out their duties. Among these were social workers; thirty-eight of whom died in the UK as a result of Covid-19, predominantly contracted through direct face-to-face practice with service users.

Social workers have had to adapt almost overnight to changing practice situations in which not only does such practice work continue, where it is necessary to do so, but also in moving towards online working to maintain care of particularly vulnerable clients and situations. To do so, requires additional effort as well as enormous courage and faith to ensure that things are not going wrong.

However, the other side of this picture of practitioner dedication concerns imposed surveillance and coercion to ensure that the normative expectations of society are met. Here too social workers are required through practice regulations to demand these of the people they work with.

Questions relating to social justice and human rights are at the forefront of social workers’ calls for change in the light of Covid-19. However, questions for their own safety and protection are also raised, in which the assumptions of quiet and uncomplaining heroism continues to be expected of essential workers to make significant personal sacrifices for social and professional good.

The third stream of our inquiry concerns those who employ and regulate social workers in demanding the obedience of their drones in order to regulate the functioning of the hive. Here we may think of the social pressures requiring containment of people on the margins of society of whom social workers are expected both to control as well as stand beside.

The overarching rhetorical question we wish to explore in this talks plays on the English wordplay of ‘whither’/ ‘wither’ the courageous practitioner? We ask what direction is British social work taking in these regards and what are the ramifications for practitioners and the profession.

Accordingy we interrogate where the social worker may sit between that trialectic situation whereby courage is needed to demand social justice and human rights, as well as meting the demands of the employer/regulator, and ultimately a duty towards their own safety.

Source: Manual