I was observing a conversation amongst families a short time ago about the difference between two particular service providers. The original question as to who used which service progressively rolled into the question of why families made the choice that they did. These were my thoughts in relation to that conversation.
Any such discussion may be best served by beginning with the acknowledgment of the difference inherent in each individual, family, worker and organisation. Following on from this is the nature of relationships generally; that we get along (or not) with certain people and groups personally and professionally. This alone can influence who we go to when seeking out a service. Our experiences can make these conversations quite heated, or blasé, and the conversation about schooling would go similarly.
Aside from personalities clashing or clicking, it is true that not all organisations operate in a healthy or informed manner – nor do all workers, families or clients.
In Australia at present there is much change around funding and service provision as we progressively move toward a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which (in my current, limited understanding) will see individuals and families using service providers who can serve them in meeting the goals they have set in their own plan; utilising funds approved for spending on this plan.
There are multiple considerations in determining how often a service is provided, in what manner, and how we respond to these things. Some may seem obvious, but it may also be that those that are part of our own experience seem so, and not those that are of another’s experience.
I have raised my children in a rural area. As babies, my children received services once a month that many of their city peers received weekly. Another service they received as slightly older children came 6-8 weekly, not weekly or fortnightly as in the closest city – and from the same service provider. When they were a little older again, but still children, a new service from an established service provider emerged and we were offered the previous 6-8 weekly service at fortnightly intervals – so we changed. This service provider had a different funding arrangement, and this influenced their services and provision of them.
Another consideration might be the way that the worker or service provider delivers the service. On occasion this could mean that they deliver it poorly, but it could also mean that their perspective or priorities differ to the client or family’s. It is helpful to seek input from other users, especially when new to accessing services, but we should also take care to recognise that sometimes we are each experiencing difference rather than “good” or “bad” service.
We might also consider communication of expectations – ours and the service provider’s. An organisation should have a policy around their communication with us, which ought to include our responsibilities toward them as well as theirs toward us. Not every organisation will communicate well, and we will not always know what we need to be informed of. Funding arrangements, time allocation to specific services, distances travelled, are all things to enquire about or for clients and families to be made aware of. An abrupt disruption or end to a service without any notification is not appropriate, but informing clients of what is/may occur in the near future is. Sometimes a service provider cannot influence the course of the organisation, but clients and their families’ lives are affected by such changes, not just their occupation, job title or working hours. The client network will form opinions about service providers based on the information shared on particular experiences – positive and negative. Likewise, organisational networks will get the gist of which clients have the potential for a positive or negative working relationship. Healthy, respectful communication which shows the value of the client, family and professional/organisation will foster positive outcomes in service provision and client goal-achievement.
I’m sure there is much more we could consider, but my hope is that these few suggestions might prompt us to think through our responses to each other both professionally and personally.