Diversity Awareness among Social Service Workers
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Social injustice happens when unfair practices are being carried out in the society. Unfortunately, this is a problem that is so prevalent; social service workers have been fighting social injustice or inequality for a long time now. In this paper, I wrote a blog post that aims to open the minds of my fellow social service workers (current and future) about two of the biggest social injustice-related problems that the aboriginals in Canada are facing: lack of access to medical and health care services and low income and unemployment. First, I focused on discussing the anatomy of these two social injustices; what causes them, and what are the factors that contribute to them. I then proceeded by giving concrete recommendations on what we can do as social service workers to improve the situation for the aboriginals in Canada. The recommendations I gave focused on 1) providing education and counseling services as the short to medium term solution, and 2) initiating and participating in policy change discourses and discussions as the long term solution.
Topic – Social Injustices among Aboriginals in Canada: What Social Workers Can Do About Them
It is a requirement for social workers to have a certain level of expertise when it comes to dealing with all types of people, regardless of their race, gender, personality, cultural, nationality, religion, or any other stratifying factor that dives people. In this paper, I identified multiple issues that come as a challenge for the aboriginals in Canada. Aboriginals can be defined as the earliest group of people who inhabited a certain place or geographical location.
In some cases, they are also referred to as the native or indigenous people. The aboriginal people living in Canada have played a vital role in forming the country’s history and cultural identity. According to estimates, there are about 1.4 million aboriginal Canadians in the country. The said population is divided into three main groups namely the First nations or the North American Indians, the Metis, and the Inuit. Each one of these aboriginal Canadian groups have their own culture, traditions, language, and jurisdictions.
It is not uncommon to hear reports of aboriginal Canadians being the subject of reports related to social injustice, social inequality, and exploitation, among other key issues that are related to the job description of social service workers. In this blog post, I identified a five social injustice-related issues that the aboriginal people in Canada are experiencing today and what we, as social service workers, can do to help resolve them.
Lack of Access to Medical and Health Care Services
Canada is a first world country with a world class medical and health care system. Unfortunately, it is not perfect and there are certain areas where medical and health care coverage is not that good. Unsurprisingly, the areas where a good number of aboriginal Canadians are located are the same areas where the coverage for the much needed medical and health care services is not up to par with the national standards. It is painful to think that the very people who helped shape the history and culture of the country are the ones who are being left out when it comes to health care.
Clearly, there is a high level of disparity in terms of access to health care between the average non-aboriginal Canadians and the aboriginal Canadians. This is backed by numerous reports and studies. In a report featured in the News Medical Life Sciences, for example, lack of access to health care among different populations usually occur as a result of common health care coverage-related problems like lack of health insurance, lack of financial resources, structural barriers, and sociocultural barriers (Mandal, 2016). The reality is that the findings of the said report directly applies to the problem on the lack of access to healthcare that is being experienced by the aboriginal Canadians.
Since I already outlined the anatomy of the problem that the aboriginal Canadians are facing, now would be the most appropriate time to answer what we can do as social service workers to help alleviate the situation, following the anti-oppression principles. To be honest, all that we can do is to educate the aboriginal Canadians with an end goal of making them aware of their best options.
This can be different for social service workers who work specialize in the health care industry because aside from educating the aboriginal Canadians, they can also offer more case-specific services like counselling and psychotherapy, community development and capacity building, participating in various legislative and social processes that are aimed at improving the social and health services (i.e. lack of access to health services for aboriginal Canadians), and even piloting applied social research.
For us that do not have this kind of specialty, the best that we can indeed offer is education, which is a highly effective tool. By educating the aboriginal Canadians, we are basically equipping and preparing them with the right knowledge that would enable them to take care of themselves.
If things go as planned, they would be able to realize that the right decisions that would make them solve their health care access-related woes are those that would help them land a decent paying job so that they can afford to buy health insurance for themselves and their family members, or even relocate themselves to a location where there is a nearby hospital or financial hospital. My hope is that by educating the aboriginal Canadians about their best options, they will be able to lessen their reliance on the government; because let’s face it, the government can only do so much. And the truth is that if they are going to just wait for the policymakers to hand over the services that they need, they would have to wait for a really long time, possible decades. With social service workers like us educating them (aboriginal Canadians), we are basically helping the government bring down the number of people who do not have access to medical and health care services.
Lower Income Levels and Unemployment
In Canada, it is not uncommon for the aboriginals to be categorized as low income individuals. As social service workers who are guided by the anti-oppression principles, we ought to ask the question what makes the aboriginal Canadians different from the average Canadians that the former tend to earn significantly less than the latter. This is part of the process where we critically examine the causes of the imbalance in a situation or organizational structure (McGibbon, 2012).
The causes of low income levels and unemployment among aboriginal Canadians are multifactorial. For example, it would be safe to suggest that one of the reasons why these people have low income levels or are unemployed is education. One reason behind this is that they do not value education like most people who have a fast paced life do.
Because of this, they tend to experience challenges when it finally comes time for them to look for a job and start earning a living. The job market is becoming more and more competitive to the point that those who do not have at least an undergraduate education get weeded out. This definitely does not work in favor of the aboriginal Canadians because a good majority of them are uneducated. In the end, this leads to a situation where they become low income earners and in some cases, even unemployed.
So, as social service workers, what can we do? Firstly, we can focus on providing community development assistance. This can come in many forms. According to the Canadian Association of Social Workers (2016), social service workers who specialize in this area or discipline should have skills that can contribute to the goal of making improvements in local economies such as those located in rural and remote areas where some low income and unemployed aboriginals live.
A good number of community development social service workers are highly engaged in policy and social discourses and discussions. They tend to participate in policy analysis sessions where they end up giving recommendations to policymakers about the best direction that policymakers can take in order to resolve social injustices, among other issues.
On a smaller scale, there are also social service workers who work hand in hand with the members of the aboriginal Canadian communities on a one on one basis. In such cases, they help individual families and even members in aboriginal Canadian communities improve their situation. This can be done by enrolling them in available socioeconomic assistance programs and providing counselling services.
Social service workers should also have the ability to conduct a research. This should come in handy in situations where they have to present arguments during policymaking discussions. As the people who interact directly with the members of the aboriginal Canadian communities for example, it is expected for social service workers to know how to proceed with any future changes in policymaking.
Educating the aboriginal Canadians about their best options can only do so much; in some cases, even the most aware ones still end up finding themselves in a low income situation or worse, unemployed. External factors are the ones at play in those situations. The best way for us, social service workers, to confront those external factors is to propose changes in government policies through collective discourses and discussion. Appropriate policy changes should serve as the long term solution to the problems that aboriginal Canadians are experiencing when it comes to having low income and being unemployed.
Social injustices like lack of access to healthcare, low income and unemployment, language, cultural, and segregation-related problems are only some of the major concerns that the communities of aboriginal Canadians are facing. As social workers, we have done a tremendously good job in helping these people improve their living conditions and quality of life. But certainly, we can do more. So far, the recommendations for aboriginal Canadian problems that I identified can be divided into two: 1) Providing education and counseling services to aboriginal Canadians, with the goal of making them aware of their best options 2) Initiating and participating in existing discourses and discussions about future policy changes. Between the two, the former serves as the short to medium term solution whereas the latter serves as the long term and real solution to the identified problems.
Canadian Association of Social Workers. (2016). Social Work Practice in Community Development. CASW, Retrieved from http://www.casw-acts.ca/en/social-work-practice-community-development.
Mandal, A. (2016). Disparities in Access to Health Care. News Medical Life Sciences, Retrieved from http://www.news-medical.net/health/Disparities-in-Access-to-Health-Care.aspx.
McGibbon, E. (2012). Oppression and Mental Health: Pathologizing the Outcomes of Injustice. Brunswick Books.