Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Covid-19 and adult social workers

By Rob Mitchell, Principal Social Worker at Bradford Council and Elaine James, Service Manager for commissioning for learning disabilities at Bradford council

Social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversity.
Those principles underpin the professional ethics which are encoded into the global definition of social work. During the current Covid-19 pandemic, the professional ethics and moral code of the profession at a global level is being tested.  At a time when the World Health Organisation asks for ‘social distancing’ to be adopted be everyone on the planet, never has the social in social work mattered so much. 
Since the Care Act was brought into law in 2014, adult social workers in England have reconnected with the social in social work; moving away from transactional brokerage roles, developing relational practice which focuses on people’s strengths, and building on natural social networks of support within their family and community.  At a time when these networks are physically distanced, the profession has a key role in maintain wellbeing. 

In our Local Authority our social workers are doing the following:
A lot of social work attention in the coming months will be on supporting our NHS colleagues, working collaboratively and collectively to ensure that clinically skilled nurses and doctors are able to prioritise and concentrate on those who most need their care. We have a strong ethos of helping people to stay happy and healthy at home in Bradford.  There will be an enhanced role for social work in the coming months, helping commissioners to understand what support people need to do this, and whether people’s needs are changing and different to what they might usually been.
People will need to see, speak to and hear from social workers more than usual over the coming months. Our social workers are becoming familiar with the Government guidance on who is most vulnerable from Covid-19, reviewing and checking is anyone they or their team support affected.  They are making contact with them, ensuring they have accessible information about protecting themselves and their family from Covid-19 and arranging for weekly phone and video calls to check in.  If they are extremely at risk from Covid-19, they are making contact with the community hub to ensure that they have a regular supply of food, medicines, toiletries, household and personal hygiene goods.
Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights is the right to a private and family life.  There are lots of modern technologies out there that can help maintain social and family networks: Zoom, Skype, Facetime and Whatsapp are all easily accessible and we are encouraging families and Care Home providers to set up and use them.
Direct Payments – Regulation 11 of the Community Care, Services for Carers and Children’s Services (Direct Payments) (England) Regulations 2009 makes clear that  that direct payments can be used to secure services from these people (including parents) where the local authority is ‘satisfied that securing the service from such a person is necessary…for promoting the welfare of the child in respect of whom the service is needed’. This means that social workers are permitted to make Direct Payments for a disabled child, to employ close family members living in the same household to provide care. The only requirement is that the Local Authority accepts that this is necessary for promoting the child’s welfare.  Under Regulation Three of the Care and Support (Direct Payments) Regulations 2014 social workers can in exception agree to Direct Payments being used to pay close family members living in the same household to meet care needs ‘if the local authority considers it is necessary to do so’.  We have decided that during the Covid-19 crisis we will adopt the presumption of necessity and use Direct Payments very flexibly.
So, we’re sticking to those principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversity. Social work can play its part in helping us all get through this crisis and beyond.


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