Digital Social Work


Digital Social Work, Competences for providing social support in a digital environment.

Course Description

COVID-19 aggravated social exclusion of ill, older and disabled persons through measures to restrict movement and contacts, such as stay-at-home restrictions, quarantines, and lockdowns. While such measures were crucial for ensuring the safety of all, they just worsened and mainstreamed a condition of isolation that many groups of population suffered even before the pandemic. Millions of younger and older persons with mobility impairment due to illness, age or disability or with immunodeficiency (due for example to transplants, oncological illnesses, HIV or other conditions) are restrained every day, often together with their informal carers, in their opportunities of social interaction and engagement in meaningful activities outside their homes.

Engaging clients in meaningful activities is one of the principles of Person-Centered Care and it has been found fundamental to the health and wellbeing of the individual accessing care and support. It can help to improve physical fitness, improve mood and help to combat depression and anxiety, combat loneliness, improve the quality of sleep and even reduce falls. (Skills for care) However, it can be challenging for housebound clients to access them if not supported in doing so. Moreover, the Healthy Ageing framework promoted by WHO puts the emphasis in “creating the environments and opportunities that enable people to be and do what they value throughout their lives”.

As clearly showed during the peak of the pandemic, online technologies could be exploited to provide social support and a sense of belonging. In fact, for many, the Internet and other digital technologies have become a window to the world during the lockdown, enabling us to connect with family, friends and the community but also to make educational, cultural or recreational experiences from our homes. However, not only many persons still have limited access to digital technologies and lack necessary skills to fully exploit them, but this is true also for many social care professionals and andragogists, who might not have the necessary competences to conceive and implement social support actions based on ICT.

In fact, a barrier to e-social work (which is broadly understood as activity performed by different kind of social professionals and aimed to support social inclusion and empowerment of vulnerable groups through ICT supported informal socio-educational actions) is not only the lack of basic ICT skills, but rather of more advanced competences, such as the ability to access, adapt and create new social and educational intervention methods using ICTs and to deliver technology-mediated social work and community work practices. Also, the use of ICT raises specific issues in terms of ethics and privacy which must be dealt with.

This MOOC highlights the possibilities offered by ICT to users as well as to professionals of the social sector. This chance should be taken to make steps forward in incorporating e-social work skills in VET curricula by providing trainers and educators with tools and practices to do so. In this framework, the specific goal of the MOOC is to develop digital pedagogical competences of C-VET educators in the social sector, enabling them to teach to their students how to develop and use high quality digital content for social inclusion of clients which are housebound because of disability, illness or COVID-19 related restrictions.

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