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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Social Services: The Risk to Clients When Systems Fail

Agency supports are sometimes necessary to assist people to "put the pieces together"...
When I was getting my certification to work in the field I do now, several of my teachers seemed (to me) to have a bias against social services agencies stance that infuriated me. At that point, I had volunteered for several years for a social services agency of whose I was very proud. I resented the suggestion that its work was actually setting people with disabilities back instead of moving them forward.

Still a Need for Social Services Agencies...

I understand now that my professors weren't necessarily biased against social services agency supports, but were rather trying to get us to question a widely-held assumption that only agencies and “workers” can provide people with disabilities with what they need. The opposite is true. There’s no reason why the community, its members and social services agencies that haven’t traditionally provided services to people with disabilities can’t provide support that agencies like the ones for whom I've worked and volunteered traditionally have; it’s just that the wall of, “Oh, he/she Is one of *theirs*” has always stood in the way. Agency involvement sometimes keeps the walls to true inclusion in communities standing.

However, no matter what vulnerable group you’re talking about, the nature of our society dictates that there are always going to be people out there who need support who may not be able to find it (or enough of it) from family or friends or other informal systems. The world still needs social services agencies and the supports that they provide.

...But Also a Need for Change


And despite budget cuts and legislation and other changing realities, agencies have to find ways to provide effective and thorough support, or we hear terrible stories like the following. Just a warning; I found this story very difficult to read. But please read it, especially if you live in Canada. People need to know just how easy it is for families to fall through the cracks, and just how little a voice children (especially children with disabilities) can have regarding what they need when there are lots of other needs in a family.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/bc-politics/disabled-girl-left-with-dead-mother-victim-of-neglect-report/article2078774/

It’s almost physically painful for me to think about what the days after her mother’s death must have been like for this poor young woman. Alone, already significantly neglected and unable to hear because her hearing aids weren’t working, not understanding what had happened because of Down’s Syndrome, trying to feed her mother’s body and administer her medication…it’s a heart-breaking story.

Some Things Should Never, Ever Happen


And a shocking one. Several social services agencies from various British Columbia government Ministries were involved with this family. There’s no way that something like this should have happened, ever. The British Columbia children’s watchdog has already made a report to the Premier about her recommendations based on this incident, including better communication between Ministries when it comes to supporting children with disabilities in the province. Hopefully this will prevent children from falling through the cracks the way this child did.

There are lots of people who support children with disabilities who do wonderful work. They need to be a part of system that allows them to do that work effectively, so that something like this never happens again.

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