COVID-19 AND IMPACT ON SOCIAL WORK SERVICES
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on individuals, families, groups and communities. Social workers understand that this pandemic can exacerbate issues for those individuals in our communities who are dealing with mental health concerns, addictions issues, poverty, homelessness, and violence. Many services and psychosocial supports are still required in the provision of health and social services.
Throughout this pandemic, the Chief Medical Officer of Health issued public health orders and directives to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the province. As we move through the 5-step alert system for the easing of public health restrictions, social workers in all fields of practice must keep abreast of changes and continue to follow public health orders and directives accordingly. For the latest information on COVID-19 and the 5-step alert system, please visit https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/. Additional trusted and credible sources of information are also listed below.
As alert levels change, social workers must use professional judgement, in consultation with their employing organizations, on how essential services will be continued or modified. Clear and ongoing communication with clients regarding service delivery is important.
As a result of public health measures during this pandemic, the delivery of electronic social work services (e.g. telephone, on-line, video) has increased. The continuation of virtual care is advisable where possible. Information pertaining to electronic social work practice can be found below. Social workers engaging in electronic service delivery should be familiar with the NLASW Standards for Technology Use in Social Work Practice and follow the standards accordingly.
Social workers providing in person services are advised to take all the necessary precautions in keeping with public health measures as outlined by the Chief Medical Officer of Health including client screening for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure prior to office visits, physical distancing, hand hygiene, sanitation and disinfecting protocols, and use of PPE as appropriate. Seeking information from trusted websites on how to protect oneself against COVID-19 is recommended. This includes the Government of NL, Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization.
To stay up to date on information relevant to social work practice, please visit this page as well as the CASW website regularly. Information continues to be updated frequently in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
Solidarity, compassion, and self-care….these are important as we move forward in addressing this pandemic and ensuring the health and well-being of ourselves and the individuals, families and communities throughout this province.
Electronic Social Work Services
As the situation with COVID-19 evolves, questions around electronic social work services continue to emerge. The electronic social work practice section on our website contains information for both social workers and clients -
A self-assessment guide is also available to help social workers evaluate their practices in relation to informed consent. This guide contains user friendly checklists that social workers can use in designing an informed consent template. A checklist focused on technology use as it pertains to informed consent is included. The guide can be accessed by clicking here.
BMS, exclusive broker for the CASW’s Professional Liability Insurance Program, has also developed helpful resources regarding electronic practice including:
- COVID-19: Virtual Health Care Services Ensuring Continuity of Care
- Consent to Use Electronic Communications Template
- Ethical Issues for Regulated Health Professionals in the Era of COVID-19
- On-Demand Webinar: Current State of COVID-19: Telehealth, Liability, and Business Insurance Considerations
COVID-19 and Private Practice Office Spaces
On March 24, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer of Health ordered the closing of all private health clinics, with the exception of physician and nurse practitioner clinics. This included social work private practices. With the move to Alert Level 3 on June 8, 2020, private health care clinics, including social work private practices, can reopen in accordance with government guidelines.
While continuing with virtual care is still advisable where possible, social workers in private practice may be considering the physical re-opening of their office spaces. NLASW has developed a document which outlines considerations that may be helpful in planning to adjust workplaces to a ‘new normal’. While this document is addressed to private practitioners, the key considerations outlined are applicable across numerous practice areas (in consultation with one's employer). The document can be accessed by clicking here.
COVID-19 & Social Work Practice - Frequently Asked Questions
In response to member inquiries, a FAQ document has been developed. It can be accessed by clicking here. It is a living document and will be updated as needed.
Pandemic Preparedness: Reflecting on Competency
As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, social workers may be deployed to another area of practice within their organization, and non-practicing and retired social workers may be called upon to register and assist during the pandemic. While the social work profession is known for its diversity, it is still important for all social workers to take a step back and reflect on their competency to engage in the
work. Areas for consideration are highlighted in the NLASW resource Pandemic Preparedness: Reflecting on Competency When Changing Area of Practice or Reentering Social Work Practice.
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) NL
The OIPC has developed a slide deck, "Don't Blame Privacy – What To Do and How To Communicate in an Emergency" to inform public bodies and custodians about information collection, use and disclosure in emergency situations. The slide deck has been updated since its initial release. The April 2020 updated version can be accessed by clicking here.
The OIPC has also released a privacy framework which outlines key privacy principles that should factor into any assessment of measures proposed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to combat COVID-19. The document can be accessed by clicking here.
Mental Health Resources
There are various resources available to help protect your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Mental Health Crisis Line (24 Hours): 1-888-737-4668
- Crisis Text Line: Text Talk to 686868
- CHANNAL Peer Support Warmline (9 am to 12 am): 1-855-753-2560
- Doorways Program - for hours of operation call 752-4903
- Managing Stress During the Pandemic
- Strategies for Building Psychological Resilience
- Self-care for Social Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic (Podcast)
- World Health Organization Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19
Many community based organizations continue to provide mental health support during this pandemic. Links to various community organizations can be found under the resources and links section of our website.
Sources of Information regarding COVID-19:
Please consult the following websites for the latest information:
- Government of NL
- Regional Health Authorities
- Health Canada
- Canadian Association of Social Workers
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- World Health Organization