Some of the challenges we were facing
Prior the MES Assessment, MES used to have social workers in some of its programmes. There was not a professional focus or supervision available for the social workers due to the way services were structured. Young social workers struggled to offer professional services without supervision by a Chief Social Worker.
In 2008 CMR Johannesburg (Prof. Social Work Organisation) merged with MES and restructuring of programmes followed. It was evident that it would be beneficial to service delivery and clients if we could centralise our social work intervention services. The challenge that the programme strategy sought to address is to empower people holistically to enable them to lead sustainable lives. The focus of CMR Johannesburg was more on child and family protection services. The same need existed in Hillbrow, but there was also a need to move homeless and destitute individuals and families through the holistic MES Service Model, i.e. Intake & Prevention, Intervention and Sustainable Exit. Due to the nature and trends of this particular target group, it was known that they do a lot of “service hopping” and would often use different identities and different service providers; even within the different MES programme. The aim with the MES Assessment Centre was to minimise this misuse of services and to centralise all intake and assessment processes. The physical address of this centre is very strategic and is next door to the “Drop-in Centre” where the homeless community daily receives a cooked meal. On the same premises MES offers its skills development programme, its resource centre, its Dinaledi Pre-school and the low-cost housing initiative of our sister company Madulammoho Housing Association is also on the same premises. The overnight shelter facility is directly opposite and in 2010 a 5-a-side soccer facility was added by the Dutch National Football Team. This has added a lot of value to this “one-stop-community-centre” this has now developed in to.
MES Assessment Centre was opened in 2009 in Hillbrow in order to render social work services to the disadvantaged individuals, families and communities in the inner city of Hillbrow. A high percentage of the clients at the assessment centre are from the homeless community. Assessments and referrals have always been part of MES’s strategy to ensure that clients receive the correct intervention. Through this new centralised service MES was now in a position to offer a higher quality professional service to this high risk community. Services offered included formal needs analyses, assessments, Individual development plans, case conferences, psychosocial analyses, group work, family preservation programmes, counselling, grant applications, and preventative work are done through a workforce consisting of social workers and auxiliary social workers. The help desk also forms part of this initiative. The assessment centre also plays an active part in providing social work interventions to youth who are in the MES Residential care and training programmes.
The focus is on holistic development and empowerment of communities, to improve the social functioning of individuals.
Setting up the assessment Centre
The assessment centre was initiated to centralise the social work services of MES and to establish a platform from where the intake of clients to different services could be co-ordinated from. This would also ensure that clients who are assisted by MES undergo an assessment process where an Individual Development Plan (IDP) was created with the client and a multidisciplinary team. Reviews follow to ensure the implementation of the IDP. The centre was established in 2009 and over the past 3 years many strides were made to ensure that social services are accessible to the homeless and destitute community as well as families and children residing in the Hillbrow area.
Services focus on intake where the intake officer does an initial screening of clients and then refer them to relevant services. The programme started with a personnel component consisting of 1 x Chief social worker, 3 x social workers and 4 Auxilliary social workers. In year two , MES sadly had to retrench one social worker and in year 3 had another vacant social worker position that was not filled due to lack of funding for these professional posts. Currently the AC has 1 Chief Social Worker, 1 SW and 4 Aux SW. There has been a high staff turnover in this programme with regard to the Chief social worker position and the social worker positions. The auxiliary social workers component has been very stable and it can be seen in the increase of short term cases that the AC has been able to deal with.
MES has relocated its drop in centre for the homeless community to a facility right next to the assessment centre and this resulted in an increase of referrals of clients to the assessment centre and these clients being integrated into the developmental programmes of MES. The AC also immediately had a platform to reach this community with campaigns.
Case Conferences were only introduced during the second half of the first year and was later broadened to become multi- disciplinary which included representatives from the Skills development and Residential care programme. More effort was put into ensuring the integration of the services of the Assessment centre with those of the Skills development and Residential care programme. Monthly co-ordination meetings are now being held to ensure that a combined approach is followed and an integrated service can be delivered to our clients.
Alcohol and drug abuse and violence towards women and children has always been a problem to address, and strategies have developed to where campaigns are now followed up with support groups. To strengthen our approach towards these problems in the community, MES has partnered with SANCA, POWA and SAPS
Short term cases
Referrals from drop in centre
Expected outcomes are that the client would be enabled to use or implement the tools that they were provided through the various development programmes at MES
To take responsibility
Make informed decisions
Uphold good/acceptable moral values
The implementation of a centralised database system in 2011 has been assisting the programme to keep track of clients, and has increased monitoring and evaluation methods..
Some lessons from our implementation
1. Centralising services: With the AC becoming the central point for entry into the developmental programmes of MES, it was imperative to ensure a combined vision of strategy for implementation. In hindsight, more attention should have been given to this aspect and maybe clearer, step by step indicators to monitor the progress of integration would have assisted in identifying challenges earlier on. It would also have assisted with the management of expectations from parties who delivery different services and would make the management of capacity easier. The implementation of multi-disciplinary meetings increased the communication between the different role players immensely and added a lot of value to the programme and monitoring of client progress.
2. The implementation of Individual Development Plans and Review meetings for all clients has ensured that the progress of every client is monitored by the multidisciplinary team and concerns are addressed immediately.
3. The high turnover of the Chief social workers and the social workers has impacted the programme’s development. High turnover is due to the discrepancy in salaries between the NGO sector; government and the private sector. Although the Government subsidises 73% of the salaries, no additional benefits can be provided for and the NGO sector is continuously in competition with Government regarding benefits that can be provided. Salaries are not a component that the private sector considers to sponsor, and therefore the raising of funds to fund additional posts or just even the difference between the subsidy and the salary is problematic. Lobbying in this regard is urgently needed as well. At present we still have the support of DGMT for this, but in a year’s time this grant will end and we have not been able to secure another donor-partner yet. This is a major concern.
4. The implementation of the centralised database system assisted MES further to ensure that the AC becomes the only point of entry into the developmental programmes of MES. All clients are captured as they come through the intake process, and other programmes add on to services provided to clients. With the implementation of such a programme, one needs to ensure however that sufficient capacity exist to input data into the system, and the input of data needs to be monitored ensuring that it happens regularly and is accurate. When offering an holistic service a central database is essential to ensure accurate and quality data that can be used to improve service delivery.
5. The immense value of networking and building partnerships that add specialised services to the centre cannot be emphasised enough. It is however important to ensure that the criteria for referrals are understood and agreed upon by both parties. Through strong networking referrals has been enabled increasing access to services to the community. Capacity has also increased to present campaigns and workshops in specific topics to the community.
Compiled by Michelle Peter, Hilke Erasmus and Leona Pienaar