Abstract: Social Work Practice with Ethnic Minorities during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Learning from the Arab Minority in Israel (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

47P Social Work Practice with Ethnic Minorities during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Learning from the Arab Minority in Israel

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Hani Nouman, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Social work, Israel
Guy Enosh, PhD, Full Prof., University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Background and purpose: Although the critical role of social workers in the fight against the spread of the 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 paper helps to fill this gap by examining action strategies adopted by social workers in public service in response to the challenges faced by ethnic minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Twenty-five in-depth interviews were conducted with social workers who work with Arab communities in Israel. 18 of whom were Arab (Muslim, Christian and Druze) and 7 Jewish. 20 were women. Ages ranged from 25 to 58 (M =36), and years of seniority ranged from 3 to 31 (M = 12). The study included social workers who worked directly with either families or the elderly (15 of the sample), as well as community social workers. Based on the data obtained from the supervisory authority of the Israeli Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, seven social services departments were selected for the study: five departments in Arab localities and two departments in mixed cities. All social workers who were present at their agencies on the dates of data collection were invited to participate in the study.

The interviews were conducted during May to July of 2020. Half of them took place face-to-face via Zoom, and the other half by phone calls. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. The interviews were based on an interview guide focused on identifying action strategies adopted by social workers in response to pandemic-related challenges. The analysis was structured according to the guidelines of constructivist grounded theory.

Findings: Research findings revealed seven action strategies that have the potential to provide protection and support to a minority population group during the pandemic (Use of local assets; Raising support from the family clan; Raising Arab civil society organizations), bridge language and cultural gaps (Using adapted communication channels; Mobilization of local leadership), and promote policies that strive for social justice (Social advocacy through a messenger; Driving the community from within).

Conclusion and implications: These results emphasize the importance of applying sensitive practices to the needs and culture of clients. The adoption of structural views on social problems, the development of non-hierarchical working relationships between clients and social workers, and partnerships with clients are required to provide tailored responses to the needs of minority clients and to promote social justice.