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Social Alternatives ; 40(4):25-33, 2021.
Article in English | ProQuest Central | ID: covidwho-1823870

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a necessary increase in the use of non-face-to-face modalities of human and social service delivery, including via the telephone. The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and cost-effciencies associated with welfare austerity measures make it likely that distance modalities will be used by social services well into the future. However, this transition may not be straightforward. Many services have needed to make this transition to disembodied forms of communication, requiring a rapid uptake of skills by staff whose previous work was based on face-to-face interactions with clients and other staff. The use of telephone and other electronic forms of communication (e.g. Zoom, chatrooms) has signifcantly changed the nature of the work, requiring practitioners to attend to different dimensions of the interactions. This article draws on interview data taken from two separate studies involving telephone counsellors: (1) a case study project involving 10 practitioners working in New Zealand and (2) a qualitative study about how practitioners engage in dynamic practice. Findings from both studies detail the infuence of managerial policies on practitioners' capacity to respond to the complexity of their telephone work. It concludes with cautionary notes about the important institutional obligations that organisations have to both clients and workers - obligations that cannot be sidestepped because they are deemed 'too expensive'.

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