For me, Sunday mornings are a time to pause, and reflect, an opportunity to take stock, regroup and share stories that can bind and unite us together in these difficult times. During the Covid-19 crisis, social services heroically jumped into action and did their best to connect with those who needed care and support. Innovative and creative solutions were found by committed social services professionals to overcome the many challenges they faced. Although Covid-19 has created incredible disruption, it has also brought about many changes that will transform the management and delivery of social services in the years to come.
Ordinary people have been doing extraordinary things, showing courage, and instilling a sense of togetherness, despite lockdowns and physical distancing. Some of their stories will be featured at the 30th edition of the 2022 European Social Services Conference which will focus on learning the lessons from Covid-19 to build social services resilience through supporting the workforce, promoting organisational change and improving the experience of those requiring care and support.
Frontline professionals have been particularly hit through the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic brought the relationship between the wellness of the social services and social care workforce and their ability to continue to support people with care and support needs into sharp focus. The workforce wellbeing programme launched by England’s Local Government Association and workforce development agency Skills for Care is one such story. The project is pulling together existing resources to support wellbeing into a searchable database, sharing examples on how employers support their workforce wellbeing, and using the results to influence government policy.
In Ireland, Tusla, the child and family agency, has put in place a professional development programme designed to develop the confidence and expertise of frontline practitioners with a focus on children in care. The agency has also concluded agreements to improve the recruitment of a skilled workforce. Students are provided with tools for remote working and during the summer of 2020 final year students were facilitated placements to ensure they graduated on time and were successfully employed in the Agency.
Children in alternative care are one of the groups most vulnerable to adverse childhood experiences. Increased reports of trauma, psychosocial and mental health issues during the pandemic highlight the need for well-trained professionals to support these children in the best possible way. Targeted support for children who suffered from trauma has been the aim of a multi-country training programme developed by SOS Children’s Villages International and Scotland’s Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection.
Flapp! is an app that provides remote support for unaccompanied young people aged 16 to 23 who have been in care in Catalonia (Spain). The app, which can be used by the young person and their social worker, includes a services map, a chat system between the young people and the social worker, a reminder and notification system, and a space in the cloud where they can safely store their documentation.
In Ejsberg, Denmark, third sector organisations called on the municipality social services to focus support on the families of people with physical or mental illness, disability, or people experiencing social exclusion in May 2020. Relatives felt stressed and isolated, which also impacted on those they cared for. A year after, a new professional role was created to offer personal guidance, coaching and support with their relatives’ and their own wellbeing.
The last two years have been challenging for everyone but there is no doubt in my mind that they have also been some of the most inspiring. There are so many examples of people and organisations having to dig deep and carry on. This is what our conference is all about, stories of triumph over adversity. An opportunity to look back, learn from each other, and move forward together positively and constructively on how we can build resilient social services that meet best the needs of those with whom they work in the post-Covid world.