Needs assessment in social work with older people in times of Covid-19: Initial ideas from an empirical study

Elin Nilsson, Anna Olaison

In Sweden, Covid-19 has affected elder care and the services provided for older people to a great extent. In the needs assessment process care managers, in their role as street level bureaucrats are facing an indefinite closure or limitation of services to offer older people. Also, as older people are encouraged to isolate themselves, care managers are now performing assessment meetings by phone rather than face-to-face. Drawing on an initial analysis of audio-recorded telephone meetings between care managers and older couples, we present two different approaches of assessing services for older couples in this current time. The approaches are referred to as «business on hold» and «exploring new options». In the first approach, the meetings unfold as if all regular services were still possible to offer the older people, only to be utilized once Covid-19 has passed. In the second approach, care managers use professionalism in relation to the discretion embedded in their role as social workers to find solutions outside the regular system. The findings suggest supporting innovative approaches in remote assessments allowing care managers to use their relational competence more in conversations, as well as initiating technical education for managing the challenges embedded in this new digital landscape.


Covid-19, Needs assessment meetings, Discretion, Inclusion, Older couples, Self-determination.