Our community ! Understanding communities ! Dysfunctional communities
Characteristics of a community ! Characteristics of an institution
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The role of the family in the community

(recreation, employment etc.) are not the same as there were 20 or 30 years ago. The telephone, radio, TV, motorcar, and now the Internet has changed our world forever. Advances in medicine, technology, health and knowledge in various conditions has meant that people with high support needs are living longer and healthier today. This group is becoming larger each year. Of course these groups should have the same opportunities and rights as anyone else in the community. I am not advocating that we should lock them up or anything like that, however, we should provide the most appropriate care for the person as well as each community that the person is a part of, where the community has the knowledge, skills and resources to look after their needs. Whether a person is a part of the community of a service, or a number of communities, the person should have the same opportunities as others within society.

"The Western Australian population will increase by about 22 per cent to more than 2.55
million people between 2008 and 2023 with most increase in the over 65 age group.
The total number of person's who identify themselves as having a disability will increase
by about 38 per cent to around 632,600 by 2023." (DSC : Disability Future Directions, 03/2010 : P.37)

We talk about the new generation and what they may do with their inherence.
... What will families be like in the future?
... How will they look after the needs of you and me in 30 or 40 years time?
... Will communities have the knowledge, skills and resources to look after our needs?
... What will be the role of a community in supporting people with high support needs?
... What will be the role of Gov. policy and practice in supporting people with high support needs?
... What will the current service organisations (ACTIV, TCCP etc.) be like in 30 or 40 years time?
... Will we depend on these organisations in the future?

Families have lost their knowledge, skills and resources in providing for the elderly. The socially accepted thing these days is to place them in a nursing home while we carry on with more important things. Other communities also have lost the knowledge, skills and resources to look after the needs of disadvantaged people and rely on organisations instead. Today we see a rising population, which is getting older, resources are being stretched, pressure in existing services is increasing etc. etc. I would not be surprised to see these current service organisations (ACTIV, TCCP etc.) become the institutions that Wolfensberger and others wrote about in the past (full circle). In fact I really think that it is already happening today and it's to late.

Maybe it's the society that we live in, that we need to deinstitutionalise, rather that the disadvantaged people that we are trying to deinstitutionalise. We need to provide valued roles to families and communities in looking after the elderly, people with disability and other disadvantaged (poor and destitute, and other medical conditions) so they have a future.

Families are groups of people that have strong bonds with each other.
They are connected with each other through bloodlines (brothers, sisters, nephews, cousins etc.) or some rite of passage or ritual that recognises the person as a part of the family (marriage, adoption, initiation into a family etc.). A group of people with criminal activities is also refered to as a family.

Have a defined set of roles, values, cultures, behaviours, expectations etc.
Ownership: The members feel a part of the family
Share resources

The traditional idea of a family unit, where the members spend time together, where the elderly are respected and looked after as a part of the family, where a person with high support needs would be looked after by the family, where the members are dependent on there own (or friends) resources are almost gone. When a family could not cope, they could ask for help from their friends or a local community group such as a church, school or community service group (Rotary, YMCA, Lions, Salvos etc.) or the local hospital. The community managed to support itself. There were no government agencies as we know them today around then.

Marginalised groups (aged, people with disability, poor and destitute, ethnic groups etc.) were devalued and still are today, and will probably always be. However while some practices were seen as cruel, these families and communities did the best they could with the knowledge, skills and resources that were available at the time. The aboriginal culture for example was also regarded as primitive, barbaric and uncivilised, but we are just beginning to appreciate their way of life. If you have an honest look at our own society today and what we do to each other, the aboriginal culture may seem tame in comparison.

The decline of the family and reliance on government support.

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