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Social Role Valorisation and the community

Social roles are how we see ourselves and others in society. They are often about a particular characteristic (age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, occupation, disability or even ability) rather than the person. A Muslim, for example, is often treated different because of his/her religion and culture. If the Muslim also had a particular disability or disadvantage, that person would have less chance of becoming a valued member in society. The same can be said for an aboriginal, a bikie or drugie, or possibily even a bank manager or used car salesman.

SRV is designed to enhance Social Images and Personal Competencies where disadvantaged people are more likely to be included in society (at a personal level, the immediate social system around that person (family, friends, colleagues, workers in institutions etc.), the intermediate social system that the person interacts with (people in shops, banks, organisations etc. plus those institutions themselves.) and the larger society- the socio-political-economic structures of society. (Diligio: Social Role Valorization - Understanding SRV (April 2004). P.79-80).

The paradigm focuses on creating valued roles for the person within the community. There is nothing about creating a valued role for the community, or the roles of the members of the community in supporting people with high support needs.

I feel that the SRV needs to be reformulated to include:
All members of all communities, clubs and groups within society.
Where they are all valued, and have a valued role in participating in each community (club, group or organisation) within society,
that is most appropriate to their own needs, as well as the needs of each community in which they participate,
where the outcomes are positively valued by ALL members of the community, as well as other communities that it is a part of.

The above has more relevance in today’s society. Generally, the conditions that people with disability live in today have changed. They are more likely to have a valued role in society. Whether they are any better of today, as compared to the conditions that they lived in and the conditions of the society that they lived in, is open to conjecture and is being debated by the various stakeholders in society. We see that the current formulation of SRV can not deal with the changing needs of the communities that people with high support needs are placed in.

A community approach to SRV, on the other hand, is more inclusive and more descriptive (explicit) in the sense that the term "community" can be used to describe our roles, relationships, behaviours and expectations with each other. A school community, for example, is different to a living community, which is different to a recreational community. A community can also be a part of an organisation or service that provides specialised care, where that care is unavailable in the wider community. While each community is different and has different outcomes, they share simular characteristics and institutions.

The above also means that the community (living, recreational, education or employment) is more directly involved in the process. By understanding the roles of communities, and how they relate to their members, and the role of the various institutions (their "Construction") of these communities, all members are valued and have a valued role within the community that is most appropriate for their needs.

We (that do not have a disability) have the choice to participate in the community that most suits our needs. We have the choice to go to a hospital when we are sick. We find the recreation community that most suits our interests. We have, or find, something of value that we can bring to the community. Even in a school or university, we bring some skills and experiences and use those as steps in a ladder to gain more skills and experiences. We develop relationships, acquaintances and friendships, and form groups (mini communities) where we support each other. Each community is valued by it's members as well as the communities that it a part of.

Of course this is only in the theoretical realm. In reality things do not happen this way. Communities are not perfect places and the members are not perfect. In all communities there are good things and bad things and we can never get everything we may want. We may never always get the community we want, and have to compromise our values or ideals or expectations bieng a part of a community. We see this all the time where people find the security of the community more important than the way they are treated or that the institutions of the community are against their own principles. We also see hidden agendas, internal politics, power plays, where members try to change the community for any number of reasons.

Communities are the very essence of how we see ourselves; see others, our roles, behaviours and expectations of others and ourselves. They are the means by which we fulfil all other needs. Without a purpose or reason for living, other needs such as food or shelter may become meaningless. Sometimes the needs of food and shelter come before our choice of community that we want to be a part of. To some extent communities are determined by our own deeds. We may choose one community over another to satisfy those needs, however, it is the community that we have committed to that ultimately fulfils the particular need.

A successful actor/singer may choose the community of his/her profession (the glitz and glamour, the fans etc) in order to fulfil his/her needs of food and shelter rather that the community of a family. Alternatively, we may want to work as a lawyer, for example, to feed and shelter ourself and our family, but can only find work as a gardener or something else that we would prefer not to do. In this case it is the community of the family that keeps us going. Community provides the motivation, the support, the strength to carry on. It is this internal bond with others that we love and care about that bring a sense of reality to our lives. Where a person has lost the will to live because of a severe injury, illness or disability. They may become disillusioned, isolated, may be angry or have some hatred for the system that put them there. They need the care and support (valued) just as the other members of the community need the care and support (valued) in looking after the person. Even people with severe mental illnesses need the care and support within their own community where they are valued as a part of their community.

Whether the community is a part of another community, an organisation or service provider, a nursing home or an asylum, a home or a group home, a company or sheltered workshop, a community recreation group or a disability recreation group, the principles are all the same. The members need to have valued roles and be valued within their community, where the community is valued by its members as well as the other communities that it is a part of.

Even a prison, we see communities within communities. We see various groups that support each other and the members are valued within each group. There are rival groups that compete with each other for power within the prison. There are particular cultures (institutions) within these groups within the culture (institution) of the prison. The prison is also a community within the wider community where the members of the wider community are protected (valued role) from the members of the prison. The prison also has a valued role in re-institutionalising (corrective services) its members where they are able to participate in and contribute to the wider community in a positive way.

Within a disability service provider we also see various groups that compete with each other for power. We see the members of each group support each other and the members are valued within each group. These groups have various cultures (institutions) within the culture (institution) of the disability service provider. The value of the disability service provider is determined by the value of it's outcomes for the members of the disability service provider, as well as the members of the wider community that it is a part of.

From the above it can be seen that the values of the outcomes of the community and its members
within the wider community determine the value of the community within the wider community.

Each community has a particular role that fulfils a particular need.
Valued community roles provide a common cause or focus for the community, as well as other communities that are a part of it.
Valued communities provide valued roles for their members.
Social role valorisation provides valued roles for ALL members of the community.

Communities that have valued roles in society …
... The spiritual community
... The family community
... The living community
... The recreational community
... The learning community
... The employment community
... The health community
... The internet community
... The blind community
... The disability community
The values of community start in the home where children have valued roles in supporting others at school, sport or any other community that they participate in.

Communities that have de-valued roles in society …
... The AIDS community
... The drugs / rave communities
... The criminal community
... The gay / lesbian communities
... The Muslim community
... The bikie community
... The street community
... The unemployment / homeless communities
... The aged community
... The single parent community

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.

Peter Anderson