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Social Work Practice with Ethnic Minorities during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Learning from the Arab Minority in Israel

Although the critical role of social workers in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and support for communities affected by the virus was stressed in international declarations of the social work profession, how social workers fulfil their role in practice has remained virtually unexplored. This question is of greater importance when it comes to ethnic minority communities that may be disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19 in light of inequities, discrimination and marginality. This study examined action strategies adopted by social workers in the public service in response to the challenges faced by ethnic minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. For this purpose, twenty-five in-depth interviews were conducted with social workers employed in the public welfare services in Israel, who work with Arab communities. Research findings revealed seven action strategies that have the potential to provide protection and support to a minority population group during the pandemic, bridge language and cultural gaps and promote policies that strive for social justice. The discussion emphasises the need and importance of social workers to act in a socio-cultural–political context-sensitive manner in pandemic conditions, whilst demonstrating flexibility in addressing the changing and unique needs of their clients. Implications for policy, practice and research are presented.

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Hani Nouman
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Journal article - open access