Social work is informed by a broad range of disciplines. Social work research attempts to make meaning of this breadth and connect daily professional practice with theoretical frameworks. In doing so it embraces political and social contexts, both national and international, and the philosophical conceptualization of the profession. This issue reflects that spectrum of practice activities and views contemporary challenges from a range of international perspectives: Czechia, France, Germany, Poland, and Ukraine. Giving voice to service users and minoritised communities, the papers here use research to make suggestions about the future direction of practice.

We start our edition with Zuzana Broskevičová and Barbora Gřundělová who examine the relationships between researchers, gatekeepers and hard-to-reach groups, and the negotiation of research relationships. Against this background, research collaboration can be seen as a dynamic process where situational strategizing is necessary – communication depending on power and trust. The influence of these relationship dynamics and conditions on the research process, quality and output, requires not only a strong researcher’s reflexivity but also mechanisms for managing the pressures of gatekeeping and tools for research quality assurance and risk prevention.

Laure Liénard and Emilie Duvivier present initial results of an ongoing research project in Northern France with social work professionals and homeless shelter users to reflect on and understand violence in institutions. Based on a qualitative approach and on the epistemological foundations of pragmatic sociology social actors can construct a common knowledge, anchored in lived experiences and facilitating dialogue and the common search for solutions. These first findings show aspects of ignored or invisibilised knowledge of the plurality of violence, mechanisms of violence in institutions and life trajectories marked by violence, shame and discrimination. The results demonstrate how professionals, service users, and researchers can work together to explore an issue.

Oksana Shelemei also explores the theme of the negative impact of the workplace, presenting their research into the mental health of Ukrainian women working as domestic and care workers in Italy. The potential negative impact of this work is explored as well as protective factors which social workers might use to prevent mental health breakdown.

Vadym Liutyi, Tetiana Liakh, Svitlana Sapiga, Maryna Lekholetova, Tetiana Spirina, Natalia Klishevich, and Zhanna Petrochko consider the disengagement of Ukrainian teenagers from antiretroviral therapy. Identifying the impact of treatment on identity, socialization and behaviour enables the authors to plan interventions to support engagement.

With a mixed-method-approach of content analysis and a deductive qualitative analysis of strategic documents at the EU and the Czech Republic level, Pavlína Pospíšilová and Soňa Kalenda explore the role of social work in implementing an active ageing policy in the Czech Republic. The paper shows that social work, though essential and irreplaceable in this sphere, is not well defined and that more work is needed at a local level to define the social work task.

Petr Lazar and Oldřich Chytil evaluate the findings of a survey carried out with social workers of municipal authorities, examining how the working conditions of social workers enable them to carry out social work with people in material need in the Czech Republic. The authors employ two lenses: Social Reform of 2012 and Edgar Marthinsen’s concept of neoliberalization of social work. The authors conclude that social work in municipal authorities after the Social Reform 2012 came into force shows partial signs of neoliberalism and give specific recommendations for practice. Last but not least, Detlef Baum employs a historical overview of community work to identify the essential character of contemporary community practice. He identifies that while the political context and theoretical assumptions may evolve, the focus on people in their lived environment gives community work a unique perspective on social issues.

The issue concludes with a research note from Mihri Özdoğan, Clemens Dannenbeck, Andreas Hastreiter, Elisabeth Braun, Christina Büchl, and Antonius Stief. The aim is to develop and establish a training programme to enable social workers in youth work with appropriate knowledge and skills to counteract anti-Semitism in a professional and sustainable manner. In this context, social work is seen as an action-orientated, human rights profession where social workers have a specific role in challenging and addressing antisemitism.

Karen Mills & Sigrid Bathke
Editors of the issue