Tasks and competences of frontline social workers in fighting the Covid-19 Pandemic: Stories from Chengdu, China


Prepared by: Dr. Ke Cui

School of Public Administration

Sichuan University, China

Email: ke.cui@scu.edu.cn


Social workers from Datong Social Work Service Center (Datong) and Lichuan Social Work Service Center (Lichuan), two local social organizations in Chengdu City, have been fighting in the frontline ever since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

  • “Finding and mobilizing resources at the community level” featured among the competences of Datong social workers:

1) Developing volunteer support. Social workers recruited community volunteers and categorized them into three groups for different tasks, i) young people such as college students, were responsible to help watch the entrance when community lockdown was implemented; ii) members of the Communist Party, were actively involved in door-to-door screening in the midst of social isolation; iii) members of the community autonomy coalition and they helped disseminate public health information. Datong Social workers also recruited other licensed social workers and psychotherapist to support people with emotional needs via internet platforms of Wechat or QQ, a telephone helpline was also operated for crisis counseling.  


Image 1: Female volunteers standing in front of the entrance gate of their community.

2) Coordinating resources of private sectors. Datong Social workers cooperated with commercial institutions around the community and guided them to support community residents via internet platforms to curb anxiety, relieve pressure and help people stay connected while home isolation. Services were devised as either regular free classes, such as yoga and cooking classes, or recreational activities. They also raised 10 thousand RMB from local merchants to be used for repairing community basic infrastructures.

  • “Identifying and addressing the special needs of vulnerable groups” demonstrated another competence of social workers:

1) Dadong social workers addressed the special needs of people who were in quarantine after they had been in contact with a person diagnosed with Covid-19 by keeping them informed about health and safety issues or posting entertainment videos via Wechat/QQ groups to help them deal with stress.

2) As the fight comes into a stable condition, Dadong social workers noticed a special “vulnerable” group of dedicated community workers, who were overwhelmed by truckload of work during the stage of emergent response. They organized outdoor group activities to relieve working pressures and give gift bags donated by merchants to show gratitude for their painstaking but successful work in protecting the community.


Image 2: Social worker is talking to a local resident together with a community volunteer

3) Lichuan is specialized in community-based rehabilitation for people with mental disorders. To help their service users get through such a difficult time, Lichuan social workers followed up on medication compliance and health conditions utilizing telephone calls and Wechat facetime. They also helped service users get essential medicines and provided them free masks and sanitizers. Moreover, social workers invited psychotherapists/doctors to support their service users who might have emergent emotional needs and give timely professional advice via telephone helplines.  


Image 3: Social worker is helping a service user who needs urgent hospital treatment

  • Datong and Lichuan have also taken their roles in conducting social research through cooperation with social work researchers. An online survey has been carried out to investigate the life quality of people in Sichuan province, their risk perception and community resilience. The findings of the survey will inform social workers for future practice and local governments for decision making.