Pandemic: A Crisis for Social Work

Pandemic: A Crisis for Social Work

Zeynep Aca
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7772-1.ch011
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COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, China's Hubei Province in December 2019, and human beings have faced a global crisis resulting from spreading the virus across the world, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Social work has become one of the fields that the pandemic has disproportionately damaged the most with its severe consequences in every respect. In this context, the study aims to reveal the impacts of the pandemic on social work comprehensively. These impacts are discussed under four topics: increasing inequalities (economic, healthcare, access to services, digital divide, and education), changing services due to lockdowns, social well-being (impacts of economic changes, unpaid labor, and lockdowns and social isolation on social well-being), and ethical dilemmas.
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Historical Background

The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged, but not the first, in the 21st century. Three major pandemics already come out in the first two decades of the century: SARS, H1N1 Influenza, and Chikungunya. These pandemics highlighted the shortcomings of state-level capacity in outbreak detection, prevention, and response (Jain et al., 2018).

Pandemics cause complex and detrimental economic, health, and social problems, which poses new social work challenges. For example, the global financial short-term cost of the SARS pandemic was estimated to be approximately $ 80 million. Economic deterioration in Singapore, one of the countries affected by the SARS pandemic, caused the unemployment rate to rise to 5.5% (Tiong, 2012). Also, the SARS pandemic disclosed a greater need for public health investments in countries hit by the pandemic. The pandemic also placed a massive burden on international healthcare systems struggling to address many other severe conditions (Knobler et al., 2004). The pandemic caught many countries unprepared (Mehta et al., 2004) and affected these countries' social well-being in many ways. The SARS and other pandemics also documented inequalities around the world. For example, in the flu epidemic in 2009, the mortality rate due to poverty was 20 times higher in South American countries than in Europe and three times more in underdeveloped regions than the rich regions of England (Mamelund, 2017).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reallocation of Resources: Reallocation of public and human resources.

Changing Social Services: Differentiation of social work delivery forms from those of ordinary periods.

Poverty: Inability to fully or largely meet daily basic needs.

Limited Resources: Limited public and human resources required for service delivery.

Inequality: Differences in the economic, social, and well-being levels among individuals, groups, or countries.

School Shutdowns: Interruption of face-to-face education in educational institutions.

Gender Inequalities: Inequality perceptions of individuals by their gender.

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