Reflective Analysis Of Experience Visiting Macro-Social Agencies
The agencies that I visited were REACH family service centre (FSC) and Autism Association Singapore (AAS). Though the two agencies were quite different in terms of their clientele group and services, there were some similarities. I used to think that a social worker only helps people who are in need and to help people solve their problems. After the visits, it made me rethink what it means to be ‘needy’. I used to handle mostly financial cases during my field placement, hence when I think about ‘needy’ people, I tend to associate with those living in poverty. However, someone in need may not mean that they are poor but there are other issues that require a social worker to intervene in. For example, providing information on post-18 options for parents of persons with disabilities (PWDs) would relieve them of stress and worry about the uncertainties of their children’s future.
REACH FSC social worker shared with us a case of a client living in a private estate and the presenting problems were severe hoarding, mobility and health. Despite countless engagement with the client, she rejects help and the idea of seeing a doctor. The code of ethics (2017) states that social workers need to “respect client’s self-determination and autonomy”. However, we cannot leave the client in the lurch as her situation affects her quality of life. Though social workers can override client’s self-determination when there is risk involved, the civil defence and National Environmental Agency assessed that there was no imminent risk. The social worker faced a dilemma but decided to call for an ambulance after engaging with her for 7 months, to seek treatment. In whose perspective do we see as her quality of life being affected? We would want to help the client achieve a better quality of life, but the client may feel comfortable as she has lived in such situation for many years. How much should we persist on to handle the case if the client rejects help?
In the lecture, I learn that we should empower our clients so that they can be responsible to solve their own problems. However, in such cases, are we then allowed to step over the client’s boundaries and take matters into our own hands? There are no correct or wrong answers, but the social worker needs to have a thorough assessment to be able to justify the need to help that client. In case something wrong happens, we will be held liable. As a social worker in the future, I will face dilemmas too and it makes me worried as I am afraid that I do not know how to handle the situation. Whether one works in an FSC, the AAS or in other agencies, there will be opportunities to work in a multi-disciplinary team. I saw how beneficial it was to have other professions to see from their perspectives and give insights on how to move the case forward. I used to admire my field placement supervisors as I would feel lost on what to do or say when I encounter something that I have not heard of or learned about before, but they would process the case with me, which helped me to better handle the case. I wanted to think and act like the way they did, hence, I decided to further my studies. However, the things that we can learn in class is limited.
Both social workers shared that they learn through continuous training and the experiences that they gained in the field. I have learned to let go of some of my expectations from what I would learn and decide to go to class with a more open mind. I should be more proactive and take charge of my own learning and not expect people to tell me what to do. When I am free during the holidays, I would like to catch up on the news regarding social issues as well as learn about the latest schemes and policies. To be able to empower our clients, we must first be aware of the relevant options out there so that we are able to explain to our clients and let them make an informed decision and to provide them with the necessary skills for them to solve their problems. According to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory, we all function in a bigger environment, which means that there will be macro factors affecting our clients such as policies. For example, the Vulnerable Adults Act was also not passed at that point in time and they were unable to remove the client to a safer environment. Hence, I learned the importance of being updated on current trends and issues and the policies.
There will always be gaps in the services and policies. The lack of policies or services would affect our clients and our interventions with them. Hence, our role is to look at how we can work around the systems to help our clients. This is where one of the core values in the code of ethics “social justice” is important as social workers need to constantly advocate for the rights of our clients. In Singapore, PWDs may face discrimination in the workplace or difficulties in employment. Even if they get hired, they may not stay for long as the environment of the workplace does not cater to their needs. Currently, there are 8 sheltered workshops but none of them caters specifically for people with autism. Although I have seen more government initiatives such as the Open Door Programme, I think that more could still be done such as raising awareness about the lack of employment for PWDs and getting rid of the stigma about PWDs. This would not change overnight, but hopefully one day more people will start to look at their strengths rather than weakness when hiring them.
Ng (2013) found a bi-directional relationship between children problem and low earnings. This is related to what are some of the experiences parents of PWDs faced, as shared by the social worker from Autism Association. Parents will have to take care of the child and this may affect his/her work. Not being able to work will lead to financial issue. Though there are 5 special student care centres that accept students with autism spectrum disorder, it is not specialised and those from low-income family might not be able to afford it. Poverty is a vicious cycle and it seems quite hard for people to get out of it. As social workers, we need to look at the causal factors of the problem and target those factors to prevent the problem from escalating.
In conclusion, the two visits have changed my perception of ‘needy’ and have given me great insights into the importance of macro-level social work as I used to only think of micro-level work as important. It is also important for me to be updated on current social issues and trends.