The Role of Social Work in Disaster Management in Finland

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Merja RAPELI, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland
This study explores the role of social work in disaster management in Finland. The aim is to obtain information on the role of social work in disasters, to conceptualize disaster social work in order to understand it better, and to link it with overall disaster and emergency management system. The framework of disaster social work interventions and the concepts of vulnerability, resilience and social capital are used in analyzing and conceptualizing the role. Preparedness plan documents and survey data of private services’ preparedness in Finland form the empirical data of this study. This is compared to international research on disaster social work interventions. The results show that social work interventions of social and human investments, i.e. day-to-day roles, which enhance bonding social capital, were emphasized in disaster social work. Interventions of political empowerment and economic participation, which embrace bridging and linking with other disaster management actors were less common. Preparedness planning was completed only on a very general level in Finland, and the overall level of preparedness and understanding of bridging and linking with other disaster management actors was inadequate. Statistically significant differences were found between large and small social service areas and units in favor of the large ones. I conclude that enhancing social capital in client work, social work’s own organization and in multiorganizational networking, should be central in disaster social work. The concepts of disaster vulnerability, resilience, and social capital are central in understanding the role of social work in disasters.