IJERPH, Vol. 16, Pages 3858: `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 (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)
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.