The COVID-19 pandemic has already had immense social consequences. Social and economic structures were hit hard, and existing networks of social relations were interrupted. Lockdowns and social distancing have often made it impossible to carry on many practices that we used to take for granted, including social relations within the family, professional life, education, social networks, cultural activities and travel.
The pandemic is likely to last until an effective and safe vaccine is introduced and widespread vaccination takes places. Yet some of the effects of COVID-19 on social structures and relations may last much longer than the pandemic itself. Although it is too early to predict what those lasting effects might be, social inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, the extra workload that women have had to shoulder, increasing prejudices towards some social groups, rising unemployment, and disruptions in access to healthcare, education and social rights are some of the potential arenas in which we will witness permanent impacts.
Social work practice has been one of the areas which has been adversely affected by the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed the need for structural change in the design and delivery of social services as well as the shortcomings in the social service infrastructure. Especially important in this regard are deficiencies in knowledge and implementation and gaps in the ethics of social work.
The objective of the conference was to initiate a critical debate on the extant and potentially lasting impacts of the pandemic on society, and how this whole process is reflected in social work practice. Conference participants shared international and local experiences and had started a discussion on the deepening of inequalities along the axes of migration, poverty and gender during the pandemic as well as social work interventions developed and implemented to mitigate those inequalities.