Digital social work: Conceptualising a hybrid anticipatory practice

Sarah Pink, Harry Ferguson, Laura Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


While the use of digital media and technologies has impacted social work for several years, the Covid-19 pandemic and need for physical distancing dramatically accelerated the systematic use of video calls and other digital practices to interact with service users. This article draws from our research into child protection to show how digital social work was used during the pandemic, critically analyse the policy responses, and make new concepts drawn from digital and design anthropology available to the profession to help it make sense of these developments. While policy responses downgraded digital practices to at best a last resort, we argue that the digital is now an inevitable and necessary element of social work practice, which must be understood as a hybrid practice that integrates digital practices such as video calls and face-to-face interactions. Moving forward, hybrid digital social work should be a future-ready element of practice, designed to accommodate uncertainties as they arise and sensitive to the improvisatory practice of social workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-430
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Social Work
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • anxiety
  • Covid-19 pandemic
  • digital intimacy
  • digital materiality
  • Digital social work
  • trust

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