The rapid global spread of COVID-19 has put increased pressure on health and social service providers, including social workers who continued front line practice throughout the pandemic, engaging with some of the most vulnerable in society often experiencing multiple adversities alongside domestic violence and abuse (DVA). Movement restrictions and stay-at-home orders introduced to slow the spread of the virus, paradoxically leave these families at even greater risk from those within the home. Utilising a survey methodology combining both open- and closed-ended questions, this study captured a picture of social work practice in Ireland with families experiencing DVA during the early waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings highlight both the changes and challenges in work practices and procedures that limit social work assessment and quality contact with families, changes to the help-seeking behaviours from victims/survivors, as well as emerging innovative practice responses with enhanced use of technology. Implications for practice include an increased awareness of the risk and prevalence of DVA accelerated by the pandemic. Conclusions assert that social work assessment and intervention with families experiencing DVA must remain adaptive to the changing COVID-19 context and continue to develop innovative practice approaches.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to increases in family violence in Australia and elsewhere. In response, organisations in the domestic and family violence (DFV) sector, had to adapt to the emerging public health measures and worked collaboratively to protect the most vulnerable in the community. These services, including courts, rapidly transformed their methods of service delivery that are likely to continue for some time. But what have been the implications/impacts of these rapid changes on the DFV service sector in Australia? How have these impacts informed the future needs of the DFV sector? And what is needed to strengthen this community sector of the future? This article reports on the findings of a national research project examining the impacts of COVID-19 on the DFV service sector and the adaptations and innovations that emerged in response. The study highlights that the surge in demand for services put pressure on an already overwhelmed workforce/service sector and provided an opportunity for front line workers to contribute to building a robust sector to respond to future crisis events. These findings have significant implications for future DFV sector service delivery, and for the social work profession as a whole.