Social Capital in Social Work Disaster Preparedness Plans: The Case of Finland

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Merja RAPELI, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland
Social workers have been involved in disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery actions in many countries. Various scholars have argued, however, that the profession should take a greater role in disaster management fora. The consequences of disasters are the worst for people who in normal life are also more vulnerable, and often already involved with social work and services: children, disabled persons, the elderly and minorities of the society. The aim of this study was to find out what can be learned of Finnish preparedness plan documents, in order to develop social work interventions in future disasters. Finland is not known for big disasters, but due to the geopolitical location of the country we have a long tradition in preparedness planning. The research questions in this study were: Which interventions are planned for social work in disasters in Finland, and which forms of social capital are emphasized in the interventions? The concept of social capital was used as theoretical framework in analyzing the emphasis of social work plans for disaster response. The data consisted of all Finnish municipalities’ disaster preparedness plan documents of social work and services. Quantitative document analysis was used as the research method. The results show that social work has fulfilled its duty of preparedness planning in Finland, although in a very general level. Micro level social work and enhancing bonding social capital were emphasized. Bridging and linking social work to disaster-related structures should be developed already in the preparedness phase of disaster management cycle. The study suggests that the concept of social capital is used in developing social work preparedness, practice and training.