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Once in a Hundred Years: Does COVID-19 Present an Opportunity to Restructure the Professional Image of the Social Worker in Israel?

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed social work in the limelight alongside the various medical professions and has created a rare opportunity for transforming the oppressed image of the profession. Based on a broad perspective—historical, social and political—we show how the development of a collective needs-conscious identity can lead to active protests on the part of social workers against their condition. This process is brought into sharp focus by critical analysis of media reports on the protests held by social workers in Israel in July 2020. An analysis of the struggle points to a number of factors that are responsible for its success: creating a collective consciousness with respect to the profession and the use of anger (as against fear); increasing the visibility of the profession in the public eye and the media; developing a dialogue that defined the party responsible for oppressing the status of the social workers; highlighting the ramifications of this oppression not only on the social workers but also on society as a whole; and using rhetoric that enabled the professional struggle to be ended and collaboration to be continued. The significance of these findings and their theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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Shirley Ben Shlomo1 and Noga Levin-Keini
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Journal article - open access