Skip to main content

Social work's vital role in disaster situations

Posted by: , and , Posted on: - Categories: Education and training, Guidance, Knowledge and skills

Lyn Romeo: I am delighted to support the launch of a free online training course for social work in disaster situations.

Since the tragedies of Grenfell and the Manchester Arena bombings, so much work has been done by social workers and others in the social care sector to support our profession in this vital area. Maris Stratulis, National Director, BASW England, and Joe Hanley, lecturer and researcher in social work at the Open University, have kindly drafted this week’s blog promoting this excellent course. Please read it and sign up!

Hand stopping dominos collapsing
Social work practice can often help prevent bad situations getting worse. [Image created by].

New course brings calm to crises

British Association of Social Work (BASW) England are excited to announce the launch of a free online training course for social work in disasters. This training was developed alongside key partners within the BASW England Social Work in Disasters Working Group, including social workers with experience of working in disasters, and those they have supported.

The training is informed by these experiences, and the impetus for starting this project arose from those social workers who had previously responded to disasters and described the lack of training available.

The development of the training course was also informed by a systematic literature review commissioned by BASW England and completed by the University of Stirling, the course materials were designed in collaboration with The Open University.

The training builds upon previous work of the BASW England working group, including the development of guidance and learning outcomes for social work in disasters continuous professional development (CPD.

forest fire
When the world around us seems out of control, we can use our skills to bring calm and build resilience in those we support. [Image created by]

How the course breaks down

  1. Introduction to Social Work in Disasters
  2. Law, policy and best practice
  3. Person centred, research-informed practice with a multi-agency approach
  4. Responding, using theory and self-care.

The modules are designed to be worked through by social workers either independently or collaboratively, and each module involves a combination of text, audio and video content, alongside preparation reading and follow up tasks to complete. The training is supplemented by a workbook where participants record notes, reflections and responses to individual tasks throughout the training. Each module is designed to take about four hours to complete, meaning the training totals about 16 hours (or two days).

A pilot study of the training, involving a collaboration between BASW England, The Open University, University of Stirling, Durham University and University of Greenwich, found that it was overwhelmingly positively received by social workers working in a range of contexts. This included positive reporting in relation to enhanced knowledge and self-confidence in working in disasters. Some selected quotes from participants include:

“It was really refreshing to do the training and kind of be reminded these are what our ethics and values are, and this is how we can respond”.

“The CPD course really made me think about attachment and strength-based working and resilience and systems”.

“I think as well there is a real culture around training where we are either sort of passive listeners and then we’re asked to complete a sort of satisfaction questionnaire at the end…”

war zone
The training course is open to anyone to access and work through for free, and can be used by individual social workers with an interest in this area, or employers/managers in supporting their teams in disaster preparedness. [Image created by]

Free training open to all

More information will be provided at a free to attend official launch event to be held remotely on 8 September 2023 from 12:00-1:30pm. Click the links below for more details, including how to register.

Lived experience at heart of practice

This training compliments the key messages from people with lived experience and social workers in ‘Out of the Shadows: The Role of Social Workers in Disasters’ (2022.) It is the first book to be published focusing on the role of UK social workers in disasters. Their involvement goes beyond the initial crisis as the impact of disasters have long term consequences such as displacement, loss, psychological issues and survivor guilt.

This book focuses on the poignant and important personal stories of people with lived experiences of disaster. It also includes voices of social workers and their organisational leaders who have been directly involved in providing support in disasters, their reflections and sharing learning for the future.

The impact of disasters not only affect those directly involved but also individuals, families, groups and local communities, nationally and internationally.

This book provides an important opportunity to share and develop knowledge, skills, best practice and learning from disasters nationally and internationally and from social workers who have been directly involved in emergency responses as well as from the communities they have served.

Find out more

Joe Hanley, Lecturer in Social Work, The Open University:

Maris Stratulis, Director, BASW England

Sharing and comments

Share this page

1 comment

  1. Comment by colin pettigrew @yourdcsnotts posted on

    “Over my last forty years in Social Work I have had the privilege of working with colleagues who worked in some of the events described in this book, including the Lockerbie and Kegworth air disasters, Hillsborough, Manchester arena and of course countless colleagues during Covid 19. Their experiences left a lasting impression on them, their families and the people they worked with. This training & the book that preceded it, is both timely and required as little has been researched and written about social workers in Disasters in the UK. Social workers go about their “messier science” with no Hi-Viz coats and their arrival on the scene is not announced by “blues & twos,” but what they do is STAY, often long after others have left and when the shouting has died down. The book/ Out of the Shadows recognises and celebrates the unique role of social workers, it shines a bright light into the shadows of where social work, during a disaster,exists and brings it into sharp focus.”


Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.