Improving communication skills for better support to children and vulnerable families during COVID19

UNICEF organized online training to practice basic social work skills with children and families.

UNICEF Uzbekistan
Девочка заплетает косу своей сестренке.
UNICEF Uzbekistan/2020
06 July 2020

UNICEF organized online training to practice basic social work skills with children and families. Lyudmila Kim, UNICEF consultant led the training which took place on June 16-18, 2020 through the ZOOM application.

The training is aimed to improve the communication skills of social workers who deal with families affected by migration and those returned from armed conflict zones. Thirty-one social workers, psychologists, and specialists from the state organizations in the social sector from different regions of Uzbekistan gained new knowledge and skills to contribute to the well-being of women and children during the quarantine.

Needs assessment, conducted before the training, revealed that the global lockdown caused by the COVID-19 made an impact on the ways social workers communicate with vulnerable families, mainly via phones and telegram channels. Since communication is one of the key aspects of social work it is critical to build the capacity of specialists in this field.

The training participants learned about ethical principles and values in the practice of social services, stigma and anti-discrimination practice, non-verbal and verbal skills of interpersonal communication, and active listening skills. Participants have determined their values and thought about how those values can affect their ability to conduct social work with the marginalized population. Social workers have expanded their knowledge of stigma, its consequences, and strengthened their understanding of the anti-discrimination practice by using a non-discriminatory language.

"I have understood that we have been imposing our personal beliefs, opinions, and values to the families we work with, which was not right. Personal opinion should not clash with the professional advice and must be separated,” said Aziza Turakulova, a teacher of Social Work Department at the National University of Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

Participants had an opportunity to role-play as social workers and clients interacting with each other and identify typical communication errors with the client to increase reflection on their own mistakes and improve personal communication skills with the vulnerable families.

“The role-play made me realize that some of our questions may come out too harsh when talking to the family. Therefore, it is important to know what questions are appropriate to ask and the way we ask it is also critical,” said Zumrad Kendjaeva, a social worker from Bukhara.

Social workers studied different types of verbal and non-verbal communication skills and practiced them during the training. They learned that non-verbal communication and empathetic listening during the conversation inform families about the openness and interest of social workers in their story, which encourages children and their families to express themselves freely.   Participants have learned the importance and effectiveness of empathetic listening during the conversation with the client.

Participants thanked the trainer and the organizers for the knowledge and skills gained to use in their future practice, gave positive feedback, and expressed interest in participating in further training.

"This was a very interesting and useful experience. We talk a lot to the vulnerable families and they often tend to be defensive. But now I know how to communicate with them,” said Lola Boynazarova, Representative of the Ministry of Support of Mahalla and Family of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The next training on case management will be organized in July 2020 for the same participants. This would be another step in promoting the profession of the social worker and contributing to the development of the national social service workforce development in Uzbekistan.

The training is a part of the project ‘Protecting children affected by migration in Southeast, South and Central Asia”, which is co-funded by the European Union and UNICEF.