Raminta Bardauskienė


Significant impetus for applying ICT in social work was provided by the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly restricted opportunities for direct contact with clients. UNESCO (2009) defines ICT as various technological tools and resources used to transmit, store, create, share, or exchange information, including computers, the internet (websites, blogs, and emails), live broadcasting technologies (radio, television, and internet streaming), and recording technologies (podcasting, audio and video players, and storage devices). The application of ICT in social work practice poses considerable challenges. When presenting social work as a profession, the aspect of social work involving direct contact with clients is first emphasized, where the social worker-client relationship is most important (Nordesjo, Scaramuzzino & Ulmestig, 2021; Randolph et al., 2022). This relationship, based on humanistic principles, is central to client growth and change (Payne, 2011). Social workers aim to establish and maintain trusting relationships with the client and their environment, and the success of an intervention often depends on the relationship between the social worker and the client (Rollins, 2020). A less strongly emphasized but no less important aspect of social work is social work management and administration. Coulshed et al. (2006) indicated that social work practice activities include the managerial skills that social workers at all levels must have. The authors also emphasized that keeping notes on clients, plans, meetings, and budgeting is an inevitable part of social work administration, which is necessary for reporting to both management and clients. Not only the case manager, but also every social worker makes a plan to achieve a certain goal, organizes people and resources to implement the plan, mobilizes professionals, evaluates the results and revises and adjusts the plan. Lewis, Packard and Lewis (2012) referred to these functions as social work management. However, social workers often view this managerial and administrative aspect of social work negatively, seeing it as a waste of time at the expense of direct work with clients (Coulshed et al., 2006). Despite the challenges of contemporary life and the rapid development of technology, which compel social workers to incorporate ICT into their practice, we still see a lack of research on the application of ICT in social work in Lithuania. Therefore, this article aims to enrich research on how and to what extent ICT can serve social work practice in Lithuania. The object of the study is the application of information technology in social work. The aim of the article is to reveal the possibilities and significance of applying information technology for social workers working with families. The article analyzes the results of a qualitative study conducted in 2023 with social workers working with families experiencing difficulties. Semistructured interviews were used for data collection. The study participants were social workers working with families experiencing difficulties in City N. Eleven social workers participated in the study. All study participants were women, with an average age of 33 years and an average work experience in social work of 9 years. The average duration of the interviews was 40 minutes. Content analysis was chosen as the method of data analysis. The following research questions were investigated: What ICT tools do social workers use when working with families? What social work activities is ICT used in? What is the significance of ICT use in social work with families? Despite the fact that social work is exclusively considered a contact profession, ICT is rapidly entering the field of social work practice. This is emphasized in various studies (Barrera Algarín, Sarasola-Sánchez-Serrano & Sarasola-Fernández, 2023; Pascoe, 2021; Jørgensen et al., 2022; Jackson Jr & Malone, 2024; Canário, 2022). Research data show that computers and smartphones, the Internet, various communication platforms and apps, and digitized service systems are becoming an integral part of social work. Other studies also reveal such results (Coleman, 2011; Reamer, 2013; Pascoe, 2021; Jørgensen et al., 2022; Jackson Jr & Malone, 2024). The digitization of public services is also gradually coming to the field of social work. Research data reveals that social workers are exposed to digitized service systems such as Avilys, SPIS, MIGRIS, Tamo, Veritus, etc. Coleman (2011), analyzing the emergence of the phenomena of “e-social work” and “e-management” in social work, argued that social workers must be involved in the development of the digitalization of services in order to reduce the negative impact on service users. Social workers recognize that ICT tools speed up work, facilitate communication, dissemination of information, data processing and storage, enable the more efficient and sustainable management of client cases, help avoid errors, enable remote meetings, and speed up the internal processes of the organization. The same conclusions were reached by Barrera-Algarín, Sarasola-Sánchez-Serrano and Sarasola-Fernández (2023). The authors pointed out that social workers clearly recognize the benefits of using new technologies, particularly emphasizing: better access to resources; better access to information, user data and files; better communication and exchange of information between professionals; easier and simplified bureaucratic procedures; improved communication with representatives of other professions; and improved communication between social workers. Similar results can be found in other studies. A study conducted by Craig and Lorenzo (2014) on the application of ICT in health care institutions revealed that ICT improves social work practices in the health system by: reducing patients’ length of stay in the hospital; increasing timely access to resources, services and information; improving care coordination, collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge, information and resources; enabling easier access to remote clients; expediting the reporting of child abuse or neglect; and expediting assistance for clients at risk of self-harm. Of course, the social work profession is very complex, and is more associated with contact work with clients. As Goldkind and Chan (2017) pointed out, emerging technologies present both risks and opportunities to the field of social work practice and are changing the fields of social work administration, practice, education, and ethics on a daily basis. It is an undeniable fact that new technologies are influencing social work, expanding the possibilities of social workers and raising new challenges. More extensive research is needed on the use of ICT in direct work with clients, the ethical issues of technology use, and the adaptation of specialist training programs to new technological challenges.