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Social Role Valorisation and empowerment

Wolfensberger states that SRV has to come from somewhere else (Joe Osburn: An Overview of Social Role Valorization Theory, P.4) in providing valued roles for people with disability. Empowerment comes from the social structure (knowledge, skills, facilities, resources etc.) of the community and the social organisation (Policy process, hierarchy, roles, goals, beliefs, values, cultures etc) of its members. While the two concepts may seem related, they are actually quite different.

The goal of SRV is to provide meaningful relationships and experiences (the good things) in a person's life through valued roles (Social Images and Personal Competencies) within their community.

Empowerment could be described as the process of enabling a person or group of people through
knowledge and skills
self determination

Empowerment, has two perspectives which need to be understood within the context of participating in a community:
Empowerment in the objective sense i.e. that we are empowered to drive a vehicle
We have the knowledge and skills: a drivers license
We have the resources: a vehicle
We have the experience: debatable
We have the opportunity: we are physically able and able to drive the vehicle
We have the self determination: we need to get from A to B
We have the SRV: debatable, depends on our associations with others using the road

Empowerment in the subjective sense i.e. do we feel empowered
What is the difference between being valued and being empowered?
Do we feel empowered by being valued?
Do we feel valued by being empowered?
Is being a passenger in a taxi or on a bus a form of empowerment when we can't drive?
Is being a passenger in a taxi or on a bus a form of dis-empowerment when we can drive?
Can we do what we want on the road, do we want a bigger, faster car, do we care about the others using the road. While we are empowered in a sense that we can drive the car, we are dis-empowered in that we have to obey the law and respect the other road users. We may also become dis-empowered in that we become dependent on the car and lose our independence in living without the car.

While empowerment means different things to different people, there is usually a set of rights and responsibilities attached. Empowerment gives us the right to the goal, but there is usually something that we give up in the process (usually independence).

You may say that empowerment is the ability to have control over our own lives. Yes, that is true in the subjective sense, a person may feel empowered in one aspect of his/her life. The argument is an over generalisation in that no one really has total control over their own life.

Just like the fisherman who gave some fish to a friend in need. The fisherman values the person's friendship, and the person has a valued role in the community. After several days of the friend asking for fish, the fisherman had had enough and gave him a fishing rod and showed him how to catch fish. The person became empowered through knowledge and resources (gaining the skill and the tool to catch fish).

People with high support needs may have valued roles within the community and be valued by the community, however, because of the nature of the disability they may be dependent on others for their whole lives. The reality is that they may never be able to catch fish them selves. This does not mean that they are any less valued. They still have the opportunity to participate in the activity and share the experience of catching the fish, even though someone else caught it.

Alternatively, just because the person is empowered does not mean that the person is valued, or has a valued role in the community. Values come from our relationships and shared experiences with others in the activity within the community.

Community empowerment also means that there are rights and responsibilities attached. Communities can not always get what they want (there are lots of examples where they have not).

When providing the most appropriate care for people with high support needs ...
1) The community is not where the person is living, but where the person participates, shares experiences and has valued relationships with others.
2) People with high support needs (severe disability, aged etc.) will always need support structures as a part of their lives.
3) The amount of participation in a community (living, education, employment or recreation) is directly related to the skills and resources of the person, and, the skills and resources of the community that the person wishes to participate in.
4) Institutions are going to be around in one form or another whether we like it or not, It is the way that they are used that is the problem.
5) The institutions of a society towards a particular group determine the way the group participates in society.
6) The institutions of a particular government department, organisation, profession or service define the way the person is supported within that society.
7) Facilities that support people with high support needs do not need to be the nursing homes or prisons in the sense that they are today, but can become warm inviting community places that offer a range of services to the community, as well as be a part of the wider community within that society.
8) People with high support needs are a minority group in our society, and will have the same problems as other minority groups in being a part of society.

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