In the lead up to Social Workers’ Day, social work new entrant Isabelle Yip shares her experience working with persons with disabilities in SPD to improve their quality of life.
In these seven months as a new social worker, I have observed various barriers that could impact the ability for a person with disability to achieve a better quality of life, and they could arise from discrimination or social inequality. For example, the lack of accessible facilities makes it challenging for individuals with mobility issues to navigate the community and access essential services independently. Persons with disabilities may also face barriers to employment and limited accessibility in the workplace, and thereby affecting their financial independence.
Therefore, developing the self-confidence and the know-how to access resources for persons with disabilities so that they can live more independently are key components of a social worker’s role. The goal, however, is to support those with disabilities to achieve a better quality of life.
According to the World Health Organisation, quality of life refers to the overall wellbeing and satisfaction that individuals experience in various aspects of their lives. It encompasses physical health, mental and emotional wellbeing, social relationships and other factors that contribute to a sense of fulfillment and happiness.
In general, a high quality of life is characterised by good physical health, emotional stability, meaningful relationships, financial security, a sense of purpose or direction, and access to resources that support personal growth and wellbeing.
For instance, we have encouraged clients to tap on the Temasek Trust CDC Lifelong Learning Enabling Fund to learn new skills and knowledge. Through this funding, clients were able to attend courses that they are interested in or learn a skill that would benefit them in their work. Hence, social workers provide resources for clients to empower them in building confidence and self-esteem, while linking them up with services that would benefit them.
The social workers in SPD also administer programmes such as Take-A-Break to allow caregivers to have personal time for themselves and relieve their caregiving duties. A few caregivers whom I am supporting have benefitted from this programme as they were given the time to do personal shopping, recuperate at home after a long day of work, and spend more time with their loved ones and friends. As such, social workers implement programmes not only for clients, but caregivers as well to enhance their quality of life through improved mental health when they engage in activities that bring them joy.
When working with persons with disabilities, my colleagues and I adopt a strengths-based approach. This means focusing on our clients’ existing resources and capabilities to promote wellbeing and positive outcomes. We also adopt a client-centred approach, where we discuss with them their goals and values when developing plans and interventions.
Based on psycho-social assessments, we develop individualised plans and interventions with the aim of improving our clients’ quality of life. These may include connecting them with community resources, providing counselling, advocating for policy changes that promote social justice, or addressing issues related to their physical or mental health.
Social workers strive to address systemic barriers that may limit clients’ ability to achieve a higher quality of life, while also empowering clients and caregivers to promote their autonomy. I used to think that social workers are “problem-solvers” for our clients’ issues, but I’ve come to realise that may not be sustainable in the long-term. Empowering clients to pick up skills to seek their own resources may be more effective. The old saying rings so true: “Give them a fish and they eat for a day. Teach them to fish and they can eat for a lifetime.”
While much have been done to remove barriers that inhibits a person with disability from getting out of the house or participating in mainstream society, it is our responsibility as social workers and fellow Singaporeans to advocate for systemic and attitudinal changes so that people with disabilities among us could live and thrive in the community.