University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 2.12.2017 The Role of Social Work in Disaster Management in Finland (Rapeli)

Start date: Dec 02, 2017 12:00 PM

End date: Dec 02, 2017 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, RUU D104 (Helena)

Merja Rapeli picture: Eija Laakkonen/Memofoto
L.Soc.Sc. Merja Rapeli defends her doctoral dissertation in Social Work ”The Role of Social Work in Disaster Management in Finland”. Opponent D.Soc.Sc., Adjunct Professor Elli Aaltonen (Kela) and custos Professor Kati Närhi (University of Jyväskylä).



This study explores the role of social work in disaster management in Finland and its relation to international disaster social work discussions. The aim is to obtain information on the role of social work in disasters in Finland and to conceptualize disaster social work to understand it better. The framework of disaster social work interventions and the concepts of vulnerability, resilience and social capital are used in analyzing and conceptualizing the role. The methods used are integrative literature review, quantitative document analysis, and statistical analysis of the survey. Municipal social services’ preparedness plan documents and survey data of private social care units’ preparedness form the main empirical data. The results show that social work interventions of social and human investments, i.e. day-to-day roles, which enhance bonding social capital, were emphasized in disaster social work. Interventions of political empowerment and economic participation, which embrace bridging and linking with other disaster management actors were less common. Preparedness planning was completed only on a very general level in Finland, and the overall level of preparedness and understanding of bridging and linking with other disaster management actors was inadequate. Statistically significant differences were found between large and small social service areas in favor of the large ones. I conclude that enhancing social capital in client work, social work’s own organization and in multiorganizational networking, should be central in disaster social work. The concepts of disaster vulnerability, resilience, and social capital are central in understanding the role of social work in disasters.

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Merja Rapeli
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