Social workers are on the front line when it comes to the millions of French people who are far from or in difficulty with digital technology (see, in this regard, " social work and the digital challenge.
On July 3, the High Council for Social Work (HCTS), meeting in plenary session, approved a policy paper on the digital transition in social work.
Didier Dubasque, co-leader of the working group that produced this text, summarizes and the key ideas of this text.
- "Digital technology impacts professional practices and work organizations and can increase the lack of access to rights. It encourages the implementation of new services
- Communication and exchange tools must be secured in compliance with the law, but also with ethical principles and deontology
- Access to and maintenance of rights must be strengthened. Social workers cannot carry this dimension alone.
- Digital technology forces us to enrich our professional thinking by recognizing and relying on the power to act and the skills of the people we support.
For the State and communitiesSocial services cannot deal alone with issues related to the difficulties of our fellow citizens in their use of digital technology. Social workers must be able to intervene in conjunction with other professionals, in particular:
- social mediators whose primary mission is to "conduct mediation actions with the public or institutions in order to contribute to strengthening social cohesion". These mediators should be able to be present in greater numbers throughout the territory. The skills they have developed in the mastery of digital tools allow them to carry out missions to help people access their rights by contributing to improving relations between people and institutions.
- digital mediators. As recommended by the report of the national strategy for an inclusive digital world, it is necessary to structure the offer of digital mediation and training by creating a common national reference system and by developing specializations in "digital support and mediation" in existing professional fields.
For institutions developing online services100% of the population will not be able to use digital tools independently. The social organizations whose mission is to administer rights must draw the consequences in order to allow equal access to rights for all. They have the responsibility in this logic to commit means to take into account the needs of people in difficulty with digital tools.
Institutions and organizations providing social benefits must ensure that:
- Involve social workers and supported persons in all stages of their tools from design to use, updating, testing and ongoing evaluation of online services that concern them.
- Develop user-friendly, efficient and relevant interfaces and a reception policy with the possibility of maintaining a face-to-face relationship for complex situations.
- Implement training to master the tools they develop.
- "To offer methods of access to services and information that are complementary to those developed via the Internet, otherwise users who are the furthest from this tool will be condemned to exclusion. Physical places, allowing people who wish to meet the agents of public administrations and services, represent a guarantee of accessibility that must be protected" as recommended by the Defender of Rights20.
- Coordinate their actions on these subjects with their partners
For social workers, their supervisors and employersThe inevitable evolution of professional practices linked to the digital transition implies that this reality be included in service projects with a policy of support for change, the involvement of the people supported and the implementation of dedicated resources. The aim is to develop synergies between means, resources and skills at the territorial level via communities of practice, working groups and training exchanges. A continuous evaluation must be carried out on the impacts, consequences and skills to be consolidated.
The services that provide assistance to the population must take into account the issue of coordination of the different actors of digital inclusion by being vigilant on the quality of the cooperation process.
The law must be applied: the accessibility of files to all the personnel of a structure, whatever their status, and lists of passwords stored by social services are prohibited, even if these uses may seem practical. The HCTS and the CNIL remind us that professionals should only collect information that is useful and necessary for the performance of their duties. Consequently, professionals must ensure that the use of digital tools allows them to comply with their legal obligations or at least, that their use does not hinder the respect of their obligations.
The professional position must be able to be questioned on the place that the tool and the computer input take during the interviews with the persons. Messaging and social networks require a measured and thoughtful practice. They are certainly useful, but they cannot be avoided without thinking about what their use implies for both the persons accompanied and the professionals.
Social workers are invited to bring their expertise on digital practices as soon as they concern their fields of competence: the help to the effective access to fundamental rights, the support to autonomy, the prevention and the protection of childhood and vulnerable people, the development of solidarities and social development...
Social workers learn about the potential of the tools and their limitations. They are on the lookout and alert when they notice dysfunctions.
Social workers cannot and should not substitute their own responsibility for that of the managers of online services, but they do have a responsibility, within the framework of their missions and fields of competence :
- to fight against the lack of access to rights of the people they meet.
- to guarantee the respect of privacy, confidentiality and professional secrecy in the use of digital tools by taking into account the legal rules, ethical and deontological frameworks.
- to be trained in all technological evolutions as soon as they have an impact on the persons accompanied as well as on their professional practices and working conditions.
- to alert the institutions that develop online services when certain situations cannot be handled via digital devices, and also when they observe with individuals and groups the malfunctioning of these tools.
- to propose and promote solutions and responses involving all the actors concerned by digital inclusion.
Summary of the 21 measures of the Poverty PlanThe renovation of social workHCTS: Terms of Reference for the Working Group on "Digital Use in Social WorkFirst recommendations of the HCTS on the digital transition
Revue française du travail social: "Le travail social à l'épreuve du numériqueThe digital, a new societal paradigm: a call for contributions from the journal "Les Cahiers du Travail SocialSocial action professionals shaken up by the digital age