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“This Isn’t Just about Things, It’s about People and Their Future”: A Qualitative Analysis of the Working Conditions and Strains of Social Workers in Refugee and Homeless Aid

1
Competence Centre for Epidemiology and Health Services Research for Healthcare Professionals (CVcare), University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, 20246 Hamburg, Germany
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Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, 20459 Hamburg, Germany
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Department of Occupational Medicine, Hazardous Substances and Public Health, Institution for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention in the Health and Welfare Services (BGW), 22089 Hamburg, Germany
4
Department Health Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, 21033 Hamburg, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(20), 3858; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16203858
Received: 26 September 2019 / Revised: 8 October 2019 / Accepted: 11 October 2019 / Published: 12 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Workplace Health and Wellbeing 2019)
Large parts of Europe have been affected by an influx of refugees and increasing homelessness in recent years. Social workers provide care services for refugees and homeless people, but little is known about their working conditions. The aim of this study was to examine their job demands, resources and health strains. 26 semi-structured interviews were conducted with social workers in refugee and homeless aid in Hamburg and Berlin between October and December 2017. The interviews were analysed following Mayring’s qualitative content analysis. Additionally, the job demands and resources of social workers with and without long-term psychological strain were compared. Respondents particularly experienced demands concerning their job content and work organisation, including emotional and quantitative demands. Appreciation expressed by clients and social support from the team served as key resources. Respondents had problems switching off from work, were exhausted and exhibited signs of long-term psychological strain, such as symptoms of burnout or depressive states. Workers reporting long-term psychological strain were more likely to consider themselves as being adversely constrained by legal requirements and to describe inadequate supervision offers and team conflicts. In conclusion, the results indicate the need for job-specific health promotion measures reducing particularly demands concerning social workers’ job content and work organisation and further strengthening their social support. View Full-Text
Keywords: job demands and resources; occupational health; social work; refugees; homeless; qualitative research job demands and resources; occupational health; social work; refugees; homeless; qualitative research
MDPI and ACS Style

Wirth, T.; Mette, J.; Nienhaus, A.; Schillmöller, Z.; Harth, V.; Mache, S. “This Isn’t Just about Things, It’s about People and Their Future”: A Qualitative Analysis of the Working Conditions and Strains of Social Workers in Refugee and Homeless Aid. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 3858.

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