Thursday 9 Sep 2021
⏰ MELBOURNE TIME
7.00 - 9.00 pm
⏰ LOCAL START TIME
Miss SARA CARDER
PhD Student, University of East Anglia - Norwich, UK
Sara Carder is PhD researcher in the School of Social Work as well as a social work practice consultant and art psychotherapist. Sara is interested in organisational dynamics and social worker wellbeing. Her research particularly focuses on the role of teams in supporting child and family social workers with the emotional demands of their work.
Dr Laura Cook
Lecturer, University of East Anglia - Norwich, UK
Dr Laura L. Cook is a Lecturer in Social Work at the University of East Anglia (UK) and member of the Centre for Research on Children and Families (CRCF). Her research interests include professional judgement, decision-making, resilience and workforce retention in children’s social care services. She is currently researching the career trajectories and support needs of highly experienced child and family social workers in England.
Teams Interrupted: Finding connection and meaning in child and family social work teams during the COVID-19 pandemic
If COVID has taught us anything … the biggest thing is how important that connection with each other is. (Manager, Child Protection Team) … We’re never really together. Honestly, I’m never in the office unless I’m on duty now. (Social Worker, Child Protection Team)
The team plays a vital role in child and family social work. Conversations within the office can help social workers to make complex child welfare decisions (Helm, 2016; Saltiel, 2015) and informal support from colleagues can promote effective practice and resilience among social workers (Biggart et al, 2017). Whilst the use of digital technology and agile working is not new to social work teams, the pandemic has rapidly accelerated the ‘hybrid’ model of virtual and face-to-face practice (Pink et al, 2021: 2). Social workers have increasingly worked from home, socially distancing from professional colleagues while simultaneously navigating the personal challenges of the pandemic (Cook and Zschomler, 2020). This chapter will examine how the boundaries and identities of child and family teams shifted in response to COVID-19. By identifying themes of connection and disconnection, it will explore how teams came to fulfil personal and professional functions for social workers, in some cases becoming a ‘substitute family’.
This will draw on two research studies carried out in England during the pandemic. The first study was undertaken between March 19th – 13th June, 2020 (Cook and Zschomler, 2020), capturing the experiences of 31 social workers during the first lockdown. The second study was undertaken between September 2020 – March 2021. This ethnographic research captured the experiences of two frontline social work teams at the point of the lockdown easing in the summer, through to the second lockdown. Taken together, these studies provide a detailed, qualitative picture of team identity, belonging and support during the first year of the pandemic. They will describe the unexpected benefits and challenges of virtual teamwork and will consider the legacy of Covid-19 for social work decision-making and practice.
Small group discussion; impressions of the paper and developing questions for the presenter
Discussion forum with the presenter; moderated for the speaker to elaborate their ideas
Discussion forum with the presenter; themes from the discussions
Whole symposium open reflection discussion