Practising ethically during COVID-19: Social work challenges and responses

Sarah Banks*, Tian Cai, Ed de Jonge, Jane Shears, Michelle Shum, Ana M. Sobočan, Kim Strom, Rory Truell, María Jesús Úriz, Merlinda Weinberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

165 Citations (Scopus)


This article draws on findings of an international study of social workers’ ethical challenges during COVID-19, based on 607 responses to a qualitative survey. Ethical challenges included the following: maintaining trust, privacy, dignity and service user autonomy in remote relationships; allocating limited resources; balancing rights and needs of different parties; deciding whether to break or bend policies in the interests of service users; and handling emotions and ensuring care of self and colleagues. The article considers regional contrasts, the ‘ethical logistics’ of complex decision-making, the impact of societal inequities, and lessons for social workers and professional practice around the globe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-583
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date20 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • ethical logistics
  • ethics
  • inequities
  • pandemic
  • social work


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