Working conditions, mental health and coping of staff in social work with refugees and homeless individuals: A scoping review [2019]

The refugee and homeless population has been increasing worldwide in recent years. Staff in social work provide practical help to these populations, but often struggle with high job demands. This scoping review aims to systematically map the job demands, resources, mental health problems, coping strategies and needs of staff in social work with refugees and homeless individuals. Relevant studies were identified by searching seven electronic databases from their inception until the end of May 2018, as well as Google Scholar and reference lists of included articles. The methodological quality of the included studies was assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. A thematic analysis was conducted. Twenty‐five studies were included in the review. Fourteen studies followed a quantitative approach, six a qualitative approach and five a mixed‐method approach. Most studies were conducted in the homeless sector (56%), in North America (52%) and published after the year 2009 (68%). Common job demands included the bureaucratic system, high caseloads, clients’ suffering and little experience of success. Maintaining professional boundaries counted both as a job demand and a coping strategy. Deriving meaning from work and support from the team were identified as important job resources. The prevalence of mental health problems among staff was high, but difficult to compare due to the use of different instruments in studies. Staff expressed a need for ongoing training, external counselling and supervision. Further studies should examine the effectiveness of workplace health interventions.

Tanja Wirth Janika Mette Jerrit Prill Volker Harth Albert Nienhaus
Health & Social Care in the Community, 01 March 2019