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Out of the Shadows

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Out of the Shadows

The Role of Social Workers in Disasters

AUTHOR : Edited by Angie Bartoli, Maris Stratulis and Rebekah Pierre

ISBN : 9781915080073

Edition No : 1

Publication : Apr 7, 2022

Extent : 168 pgs

ISBN : 9781915080080

Edition No : 1

Publication : Apr 7, 2022

Extent : 168 pgs

ISBN : 9781915080097

Edition No : 1

Publication : Apr 7, 2022

Extent : 168 pgs


Social work has often been described as the fifth emergency service. When disaster strikes, long after our colleagues from health, fire and police services have been and gone, social workers stick around to pick up the pieces. 


Out of the Shadows is the first book to be published focusing on the role of UK social workers in disasters. Their involvement goes beyond the initial crisis as the impact of disasters have long term consequences such as displacement, loss, psychological issues and survivor guilt. This book focuses on the poignant and important personal stories of people with lived experiences of disaster. It also include voices of social workers and their organisational leaders who have been directly involved in providing support in disasters, their reflections and sharing learning for the future.


The impact of disasters not only affect those directly affected but also individuals, families, groups and local communities locally, nationally and internationally. This book provides an important opportunity to share and develop knowledge, skills, best practice and learning from disasters nationally and internationally and from social workers who have been directly involved in emergency responses as well as from the communities they have served.


  1. Introduction 
  1. Learning from an international experience by Lena Dominelli 
  1. My story: from people with lived experience 
  1. My voice: from social workers 
  1. Who will clap for us? Practitioners’ experiences of working within the Covid-19 Pandemic

  2. Learning for the future


Angie Bartoli

My interest in disaster work stems from my volunteer work in Romania in the early 1990s, after the fall of Ceausescu, which exposed the overcrowded and inhumane conditions in the orphanages. I was hugely impacted by the experience – the sights, sounds, smells and resilience of a generation robbed of a childhood and hidden away in the most appalling conditions. Not long after this, in 1994 I qualified as a social worker and have worked with children and families within the statutory and voluntary sectors as a practitioner and manager. I worked for a period of time with the Department of Education and was a Training Manager for a Local Safeguarding Children Board.  I am now a social work educator working at Nottingham Trent University and gained my Professional Doctorate in 2016.  Since becoming the Vice Chair for BASW (England), I have been involved in the BASW England campaign to raise awareness and formalise the important role social workers play in disaster recovery and I have had the privilege of meeting a number of colleagues involved in social work in disasters and those with lived experience.

Maris Stratulis

I am a registered Social Worker and have a Master of Laws in Human Rights from The University of Nottingham. I have worked in a variety of strategic social work leadership roles, both in the UK and overseas, including working for Save the Children in Bosnia Herzegovina as a Child Protection Adviser and in other roles in Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. I have worked for The Refugee Council as the Manager for the Panel of Unaccompanied Refugee Children, Director for The British Red Cross Nottinghamshire and managed children in need, safeguarding and children in care services. As such, I have been instrumental in the development of strategic partnerships, integrated leadership, service planning, policy development and commissioning with a strong focus on co-production. I have also held a variety of children and adult services roles in Local Authorities in London and the East Midlands. My passion and interest in disaster work is based on personal experiences of the impact of such events, including the Hillsborough disaster, Kosovo refugee programme, co-ordination of emergency responses and working within the context of a post-war environment. As the National Director (England) for BASW, I am committed to working ‘with’ people with lived experiences and ensuring the legacy of those who have died and been directly affected by disaster are heard.

Rebekah Pierre

I have worked extensively with children and families in settings where disasters are common, including overseas in Uganda, India, and Chile; the latter included working with the UN ministry of education in rural Tarapaca, where earthquakes were frequent, and the land heavily impacted by climate change. My most recent experience of disaster settings was during the COVID-19 pandemic, where I worked as a frontline social worker in an inner-London child protection team. As an editor of this work, I bring the dual perspective of being both a social work practitioner, as well as somebody with lived experience of the care system. I have written extensively around the manifestation of trauma within the body, and ways in which practitioners can help children to reconnect with their embodied selves – which may have been home to abuse or suffering – through creative methods. Having been through the process of sharing my lived experience through autoethnographic works, I am passionate about encouraging others to share their story in a way in which they have complete ownership – something I drew upon throughout this book. I am currently a Professional Officer at BASW England.

Publication Overview


Your Reviews on this book

"Over my last forty years in Social Work I have had the privilege of working with colleagues who worked in some of the events described in this book, including the Lockerbie and Kegworth air disasters, Hillsborough, Manchester arena and of course countless colleagues during Covid 19...This book is both timely and required reading as little has been researched and written about social workers in Disasters in the UK. Social workers go about their “messier science” with no Hi-Viz coats and their arrival on the scene is not announced by “blues & twos,” but what they do is STAY, often long after others have left and when the shouting has died down..." 

Colin Pettigrew Corporate Director, Children, Families and Cultural Services, Nottinghamshire County Council

"It is hard to imagine a more appropriate time to reflect on the role of social workers in dealing with disaster, the unique contribution they can make and the challenges the professional faces in responding...Drawing on experiences of the pandemic, but also Hillsborough, Grenfell and the Manchester Arena bombing, this is not an easy read. But it is a very important read. The authors attend to issues of self-care throughout – as well as offering points for reflection and further reading. A book that ought to be on many reading lists and read widely throughout the profession. Highly recommended."

Aidan Worsley Professor of Social Work, University of Central Lancashire,

"One of the striking features of this excellent book is that it is wrapped around the personally-told stories of people who have been directly involved in disasters. These stories were an eye-opener for me, particularly in thinking about social work as ’the fifth emergency service’; and reading the book put me in touch with my own role as a social worker in the aftermath of Hillsborough in my home city, Sheffield. A must read for all social workers."

Dr Mark Doel Emeritus Professor of Social Work, Sheffield Hallam University

"As a social work student nearing completion of an MA undertaken throughout the COVID pandemic, this book couldn’t be more relevant or topical.... It shows that social workers have the problem-solving skills to add value to multi-disciplinary responses, as well as a commitment to social justice, continuing to work with those affected long after the dust has settled and the media interest has waned...The selfless, sometimes raw and always emotional first-hand accounts of social work in disaster from survivors and professionals are invaluable. They show what a difference social workers can make, from quiet determination to good old fashioned, vocal activism..."

Social Work Student
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