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CASEWORK, more than just a number?

Imagine if we lived in a world where everyone was happy, well fed, had a house and had enough money. Would not we all love that? The world would be a perfect place…but it is not.

So how does case work come into that equation of making the world a better place? Casework is about empowering individuals, it is about listening, understanding the living experiences of people. It is challenging enough when individuals go through hurdles in life. These hurdles are associated with several social determinants of health: divorce, early childhood, unemployment, migration, drug use, ill- health, marginalisation and so forth. While it can occur to anyone, the difference lies in the capacity for people to develop resilience and coping mechanisms.

Case workers at the SMRC provide information and referral at the first level. Settlement services comprise of empowering clients during the first 5 years of in Australia. This process differs from one individual to another. Understanding the client’s journey and identifying their strength are pivotal for a case worker.

Clients attend intake, which is a drop –in service, they are also referred by other agencies and organisations. With regards to the Settlement grants program (SGP), the clients have to hold a refugee / permanent visa (subclasses: 200, 201, 202, 204, 866, 100, 117, and 115). Unfortunately, bridging and SHEV (Safe Haven Enterprise Visa) holders are not eligible for the SGP services. They are therefore referred to other relevant agencies that can support them. Clients who have been in Australia for just over 5 years are seen by a worker as a one-off and are then referred to the appropriate services. For instance if someone has been in Australia for 7 years and needs assistance with legal aid, some information would be collected from the client to establish the type of legal aid (family law, debts, disputes and so forth) and then a phone-call would be made for the client to have an appointment. Clients who attend intake need assistance with a plethora of issues from migration related queries, financial issues, family violence, mental illnesses, housing issues to mention a few. It does occur that clients have all the issues which have been previously mentioned. They would therefore be assessed for the specialised intensive support (formerly known as Complex Case management case management); which is intensive case management. This is now provided by AMES. Phone interpreters are used if the clients request for one.

Through intake, clients are assessed to determine if they can be assisted by the SMRC. They are offered other options or are referred as an alternative. Case workers refer clients internally (to HACC, PAG, youth worker for example). External referrals are mostly sent to health services; such as to psychiatrists, counsellors, psychologists, the refugee health clinic). The SMRC has a good rapport with the Refugee Health clinic and Centrelink. This is another important element is case work: to develop and maintain good rapports with other agencies and organisations.

The nitty gritty of social work or case work lies in identifying an issue, acknowledging it and thinking of the actions that would help in improving the situation. It is not just about (radical) change. Clients or service users have to make that decision: do I want changes in my life? How do I achieve these changes?

The clients who come to the SMRC have a past, a history, a journey and a future. Caseworkers do become involved in a client’s life in a way or another. It is crucial that boundaries are set to avoid dependency. It does happen that the outcomes are not as planned, but the core aims is to work towards setting a pathway for self-reliance, emotional support and involvement in the community. These aims are achieved with the 6 values of the SMRC: Empowerment, Resilience, Respect, Diversity, Integrity and Inclusion.

By Sharon R.

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