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The Gig Economy: Could Social Work Learn From Uber and Deliveroo?
In recent years, services such as Uber (the taxi app for smartphones) and Deliveroo (the takeaway delivery service) have soared in popularity.
Services like this are referred to as the ‘on-demand’ economy’ or ‘gig economy’ as they allow independent workers (in this case, taxi drivers and delivery drivers) to part take in short term contracts with organisations by completing tasks, which can sometimes take even less than an hour, in exchange for money.
So, instead of having a fixed term contract with fixed hours and fixed job roles, the gig economy allows workers to adapt their employment on a job-by-job basis. This offers the luxury of fitting their work around their lifestyle and getting paid purely based on how many tasks they complete. This style of work started off by revolutionising the ways in which people get takeaways and order their taxis, but it is now gradually moving into other industries, with recent examples including:
· StyleSeat – A site where beauty professionals can showcase their work and clients can book appointments.
· Taskrabbit – A platform that to connect users with ‘taskers’ to help out with odd-jobs and errands, such as taking the bins out or watering the plants.
· Upwork – A network of freelance professionals such as marketing experts, writers and accountants available for people to find and hire for projects.
The possibilities for this industry are inevitably endless.
Matt Bee, a social worker and writer, recently contributed a very interesting piece to Community Care, where he suggested that the gig economy could revolutionise the care industry. There are a number of on-demand apps for care workers that have already been released onto the market, such as HomeTouch and SuperCarers which allows access to carers at the click of a button.
But could this kind of service also reach further into the social work sector? For staff that are completing ad-hoc work, such as Best Interests Assessments, for example, on-demand employment could be a useful option. If the gig economy continues to progress at the speed that it is, it could also be used for agency social workers to find themselves a placement for periods of time using a simple app.
Obviously arranging a social work placement or even a one-off assessment is far more complex than hailing a taxi or ordering a takeaway. There would be a number of important issues to address around security and compliance; for example, ensuring all workers using the app have the appropriate DBS clearance and HCPC registration in place. But the world of smartphone apps and the gig economy is progressing at such a fast pace that we might begin to see developments sooner than we think!
What are your thoughts on social work entering the ‘gig economy’?