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Exploring the Impact of the First Wave of COVID-19 on Social Work Practice: A Qualitative Study in England, UK

Kingstone, Tom, Campbell, Paul, Andras, Alina, Nixon, Karen, Mallen, Christian, Dikomitis, Lisa (2022) Exploring the Impact of the First Wave of COVID-19 on Social Work Practice: A Qualitative Study in England, UK. The British Journal of Social Work, 52 (4). pp. 2043-2062. ISSN 0045-3102. (doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcab166) (KAR id:96915)


The COVID-19 pandemic signalled a radical shift in health and social care services globally. In UK, many of the people with existing social care needs were identified as ‘clinically vulnerable’ to COVID-19. Those at greatest risk were encouraged to adhere to additional public health measures that inadvertently exacerbated social disadvantages. Social workers were challenged to ‘dig deep’ to continue to provide services as usual. However, problems implementing new ways of working were reported but not examined in-depth through research. Our study explored experiences and perceptions of social workers responding to the first wave (April–July 2020) of COVID-19, in England, UK. Interviews with thirteen social workers, all working in the West Midlands region, were conducted via telephone or online video. Transcripts were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. We use ‘managing uncertainty’ as a central concept underpinning the four themes identified after analysis: (1) providing social care at a physical distance, (2) negotiating home/work boundaries, (3) managing emerging risks and (4) long-term implications for social work. We discuss our findings in the context of resilience and organisational adaptation. Social workers in our study demonstrated resilience in action and rapid adaptation to new practices, but equally expressed concern about short-term efficiencies being prioritised over individual service user needs.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/bjsw/bcab166
Uncontrolled keywords: interviews, pandemic, public health, qualitative research, remote working, resilience
Subjects: R Medicine
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Kent and Medway Medical School
Funders: National Institute for Health Research (
Depositing User: Rachael Heller
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2022 12:54 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 16:52 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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