What are some possible challenges facing the social workers in pursing their change agenda?
You are one of several social workers working in a hypothetical state-government community health centre in a city (population 95 000) in central New South Wales. The centre provides multi-disciplinary services (including nursing, home care, occupational therapy, psychology and physiotherapy) to a wide range of clients, including people with drug and alcohol problems, people with mental health needs and people with disabilities (including assessment of children with suspected development delay) .
Some recent cases presented by allied health staff at case conferences have indirectly involved children. You and your social work colleagues are concerned that child welfare issues are not being fully considered. (One of the cases was where a parent’s depression was identified as impacting on her ability to care for her daughter. It had been agreed with Human Services: Community Services (DoCS) that she would receive counselling from the
psychologist, however when she repeatedly did not turn up for sessions, DoCS was not informed.) Your impression is that there is not a good understanding of child and family welfare issues and ways of dealing with them amongst many of your non-social work colleagues.
The social workers meet to discuss this issue. Amongst other things they are concerned about how the centre will respond to proposed state government changes which will mean responsibility for child protection will be shared by health and human services staff in all government agencies, not just DoCs. Going on past experience the social workers are worried that the Local Health District management will simply impose a structure and processes for dealing with child welfare issues. They are concerned that the new arrangements may not be the best for children and families and also that implementation could be problematic because staff may not be appropriately trained.
The social workers consider a range of strategies to address the problem. They think it is important that there be a multi-disciplinary staff working party to plan and implement new arrangements. One essential task would be to conduct a file audit of all cases over the past two years to identify those where clients had children, or where children and young people were themselves clients, to map the child and family welfare issues and how they were responded