Identity of Street Workers Working with Drug Users and Sexworkers in Slovakia

Identity of Street Workers Working with Drug Users and Sexworkers in Slovakia | Katarina LEVICKA,  Martina ZAKOVA & Daniela STRYCKOVA

Abstract: Harm reduction refers to policies, programs and practices that aim to reduce harms associated with drugs using. Harm reduction activities are focusing on the prevention of harm, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself. It is an approach that falls under the field of public health, professionals working in this field in Slovakia, however, are mainly students or graduates of social work. Social workers work with the clients in their natural environment – on the street. Street workers work with drug users and often with people working in the sex business, so with clients who are marginalized. It is a difficult job, which in the general population often has a negative connotation.
The aim of the study was to explore how social workers perceive themselves as harm reduction workers. We particularly focused on whether their professional identity is formed by the profession of social work or rather by the harm reduction philosophy. Another part of our interest was social workers’ motivation to work in this field of social work.
Qualitative research strategy was used. Semi-structured interviews with harm reduction workers were conducted. The participants were working with drug users and sexworkers. All of the participants were graduated in social work, with at least a bachelor degree. Most of the Slovak street social workers from this field took part in this research. The data were analysed using the program Atlas.Ti.
Findings describe how street social workers identify themselves, what they consider the core of their profession and how this differs from other social work fields.
This paper was prepared as a part of the project The Identity of Social Work in the Context of Slovakia [APVV-0524-12] funded by the Slovak Research and Development Agency.

Keywords: Social work; Social workers; Street workers. Harm reduction, Drug users, Sexworkers; Identity; Slovakia.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18662/rrem/2015.0702.02

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