THE APPROACH TO OCCUPATIONAL RISK OF SOCIAL WORKERS WORKING WITH SOCIAL RISK FAMILIES

Gintautė Žibėnienė, Asta Mikniūtė

Abstract


Research studies often refer to activities of social worker as complex and hazardous ones, as well as introduce incurring occupational risks. However, analysis of studies, particularly of those from foreign countries, revealed that occupational risk is described not only as adversely affecting activities of a social worker, but also as a positive factor. There has been a number of research studies carried out in Lithuania that identified occupational risks experienced by social workers, yet it is not clear enough what is the concept of occupational risk of social workers. Whether occupational risk in social work is a negative, neutral or positive factor? Problem analyzed in the article is what is the concept of and approach to occupational risk of social workers dealing with social risk families.
Aim of the study is to determine approach to occupational risks of social workers dealing with social risk families.
Arrangement and methods of the study. The study has been carried out February thru April of 2016. The following data collection and analysis methods have been applied: analysis of the scholarly literature, semi-structured interview and analysis of content. 1. Based on analysis of literature, concept of occupational risk in social work is interpreted in two aspects. First approach, when risk of social work is treated as a threat to a worker himself/herself due to unpredictable behaviour of social risk customers or accidents. Scholarly literature specifies that merely negative approach to risk may have a negative impact on a professional practice, while dominant discourse of risk in a professional social work should be reflexive rather than worrying. Based on the second approach, occupational risk in social work is specified as a factor that gather courage of a social worker and his/her creative thinking of how to act in unconventional situations of a social conflict.
Approach of social workers (from a social service centre in Western Lithuania), who took part in a study, to a risk existing in their work is varied, they take three positions: positive, negative and neutral.
The ones with positive attitude think that suck approach encourages them to work more efficiently, although they realize what threats they might be facing due to unpredictability of a social risk family and inadequate behavior of its members (violence, injuries, stress, fear, sexual harassment, diseases or danger to life). Reasons for positive approach to risk have been determined, such as the idea that risk hardens, gives confidence and serves as a motivation for a worker that makes his/her work with courage and responsibility.
Social workers with negative approach, thinks of occupational risk as of discouraging factor that is stressful and interrupts work.
Part of the workers could not tell whether their approach to occupational risk in social work is either positive or negative, by acknowledging that a worker mainly has to be courageous, cautious, flexible, being in control of situation and realizing what kind of profession he/she has chosen.


Keywords


occupational risk, social worker, social risk family.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13165/SD-16-14-2-02

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"Social Work" ISSN online 2029-2775 / ISSN print 1648-4789