[Essay Help]: HSSW513 Human Rights The Law And Social Justice
HSSW513 Human Rights The Law And Social Justice.
You are the social worker at the Marigold Community Centre at Glenaurie; a position you have held since graduating with your social work qualification four years ago. You have been working for the past three years with Jen Johnson, and subsequently her husband Mick, with regard to a number of issues including but not limited to:
- Housing issues and potential homelessness;
- Social and emotional support regarding being a young family with significant pressures from life events;
- Parenting skills, particularly with respect to Bessie who is on the autism spectrum;
- Gambling problems experienced by Jen;
- Money and household management issues related to this; and
- Use of ice by Mick and associated relationship issues with Jen.
Over the past year the focus of your fortnightly and sometimes weekly contact with Jen and Mick has focussed on the issue of Jen’s problem gambling and subsequent need for financial and material assistance, and with Mick’s use of ice. Both the gambling and ice issues have been responded to by the referral to other services and while substantial progress appears to have been made, there have been regular relapses resulting in ongoing involvement by yourself.
Hannah has been progressing quite well and is in her prep years with attendance at school next year, and she is proving to be quite an intelligent and engaging child, with a zest for life, and a love for her sister. Hannah is regularly found playing with other children in the neighbourhood, as well as children she met through the Marigold Community Centre playgroup. She has a wide group of friends and is quite popular. She is an avid reader. Hannah gets on well with Bessie and seems to intuitively know how to both respect her ways and social distance but to nonetheless be able to engage with her and include her in play and living activities.
Bessie’s autism has been progressively assessed by the various health professionals at the Autism Early Intervention and Therapy Centre at Westmead Children’s Hospital. She has rituals and requires a lot of routine in order to keep her behaviour steady and composed. Apart from Hannah she does not communicate well with her peers, and at times Jen and Mick find it hard to understand what she is trying to say, and Hannah plays a role as the explainer. Her speech development has always been delayed, but seems to be lagging even more nowadays. Hannah’s behaviour is quite repetitive and new things and situations that are loud tend to lead to reactive behaviour that others find challenging, including her parents. Jen has been on the forefront of dealing with this and at times she really struggles to provide warm, responsive and consistent care.
This has been the focus of work that the Westmead folks have done with her and Bessie, and you have also provided a lot of counselling regarding Jen’s feelings of inadequacy and guilt over her limited abilities to sometimes cope with the demands of parenting Bessie. There have been some isolated incidents where you have worked with her on behaviour management strategies and coping mechanisms because she, in her own words, has “lost it and belted her shitty little arse”. She has shared with you that her own childhood was difficult, with her mother experiencing significant periods of depression that required hospitalisation and prolonged treatment. Her mother had been raped as a child by a teenage neighbour. Jen remembers that her own childhood in Manfred Harbour was one where she was overborn by her father who expected her to look after her younger siblings when her mother was unwell and either in hospital or locked away in her bedroom. When she did not live up to her dad’s expectations he would fly into a rage and spankings were handed out. She never ever felt good enough. Her relationship with her siblings deteriorated as did her feelings toward her father and mother.
Meeting Mick was a lifesaver. She was 16 and wanted to change her life story and saw Mick as a loving, gentle man who was a hard worker, and whose family were close and supportive. It was not surprising that she soon fell pregnant, but she was drinking heavily at the time and decided to get a termination of the pregnancy without telling Mick anything. But there were complications to the procedure and she had to get some medical intervention requiring a couple of days in hospital to control an infection, and then being home off work for a couple of week. Mick was really angry with these events and took her to task about it. The conversations went on for days and escalated, resulting in a physical fight between them that started in the front yard at dawn and progressed to the street. The cops were called and Mick got hauled off to the station, where police actioned an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order, although no criminal charges were laid. They were told by police to stay away from each other.
In a strange way that neither of them thought possible this event brought Mick and Jen closer together. They reconciled and went away for a weekend where they shared their life stories, and for Jen this meant sharing her darker past. She shared with you over a couple of sessions what her teenage years were like. By the time she turned 12 years old she was very angry and rebellious, sick of being at home and looking after her siblings, sick of being picked on by her dad, and having responsibility for the care of her mother and the household. She had had enough. She started skipping school, going out at all hours of the day and night, drinking and drugging, and mixing with all sorts of people on the street.
There was little her dad could do but he did report her behaviour to the police and the child protection department. The family ‘washed their hands’ of her. Over the next three years she spiralled out of control and ended up in the care of FACS, but the child protection order that was taken out by them was no hindrance to Jen living life how she pleased. She got into crime, mostly property crime including break and enters, stealing, entering with intent, getting money in any way she could including pinching cheques and mail, thieving money from drunken people, and selling herself to strangers. This paid for the drugs that someone eased the pain and simultaneously made things worse.
But the law caught up with her and a series of charges resulted including Fraud, Obtaining Money by Deception, Forgery, Stealing, Breaking and Entering with Intent, and Burglary. She was dealt with as a young person, and the first few times she offended she was given community-based orders, but failed to comply with the conditions – she was by this stage moving around from one out-of-home care placement to another, couch surfing and squatting. Further offending occurred and her crimes of dishonesty eventuated in a 6 month period in a youth detention centre at Manfred Harbour. This ‘toughened’ her up and upon release she was involved in some crimes of violence, although mostly low-level stuff. But it resulted in another 4 month stint in the juvenile detention centre whereupon she was released onto a parole basis as a 15 year old. She touched base with her family but things didn’t work out and she was back on the streets trying to stay low.
She then had some luck. She crossed paths with some Aboriginal girls she had met in the juvenile justice detention centre. They helped her out and invited her back to their home. She ended up getting straight with their help, particularly from guidance she received from their mum and dad, and she found a belongingness that she had rarely experienced before. She was was able to get some part-time work at a local independent store. Then she met Mick. He was down in Manfred Harbour from his home town in Penda. They were both quite wary of a relationship at the start but gradually started to spend more time together, and ended up going out as an item.
You are at work at the Marigold Community Centre when Jen comes in to see you in a state of distress. She tells you that she needs your help. “I’m in really deep shit with the law”, she says, “Mick is gonna hit the roof when he hears”. In a quite garbled way at times, she tells you that she has been interviewed that day by the AFP police and charged with a number of offences of Social Security fraud. “What am I to do?” she enquires. You settle her down with a cup of tea and make a referral to the Glenaurie Community Legal Service and they advise that they are able to see her that afternoon.
Thereafter you only see Jen occasionally, usually when she attends the playgroup with the children. She makes a couple of appointments for counselling and a catch up but never shows up. Out of the blue you get a call from a solicitor Berry Starr at the Glenaurie Community Legal Service who advises you that they are representing Jen on a number of very serious fraud, dishonesty and deception charges involving a total of $70,000. She advises that Jen will be pleading guilty and that there is a good possibility that she will do time for the offences. They are seeking a detailed report from your agency to help with a plea to the court in mitigation of the offences so that Jen can hopefully get a community-based order rather than a custodial one, which would be very impactful upon the Mick and the children in particular. She advises that she would like you to cooperate and that Jen’s social issues are at the core of the argument in mitigation.
Berry Starr also advises that if you refuse she will subpoena the agency’s records and you to give evidence. She also says that she may have to do this anyway as the Prosecutor will need to get a prior copy of the evidence in mitigation that she is wanting to present. You negotiate with her that the report will be needed within the month, even though you have not explicitly said that you are willing to prepare one. A formal letter is received a couple of days later outlining that the Community Legal Service acts on Jen’s instructions in the matter and putting forward the request and the sorts of areas the report may need to address. You want to discuss this with your Service Manager and the Management Committee of the Marigold Community Centre as you know that one of the members on it is a local legal practitioner. You are wracking your brains for the material about the law you learned in your social work degree.
You seek advice from these sources and after much discussion there is agreement that while the agency does not want to get tangled up in a legal process, there seems to be a social justice issue at stake here given Jen and Mick’s past and the work the agency has done with them. It all seems relevant to the commissioning of the crimes. You had always wondered how Jen was getting all the money to do the gambling, but you hadn’t dared to ask for fear of Jen feeling like you were treating her in an accusing way. You now wished you had asked her. You fear that if you have to give evidence you will look like a fool who just accepted as the truth everything Jen ever said. Well, you think, you had better do this as the Marigold Community Centre has a mission statement that says:
To promote community well-being and social justice by serving socially excluded and marginalised people in Glenaurie who require social and material support, guidance in addressing the social issues they encounter, and connections with others to form productive interdependent social relationships.
But the more you think about the matter, the more you are concerned about what exactly you should report on and what you should keep confidential. Moreover, you think that the advice from the Manager and the Management Committee is sound – they said that they want you to prepare a full briefing paper for their consideration concerning establishing agency policy as there is nothing at present concerning legal matters like this – or how to handle service-user information and appropriately maintain confidentiality and service-user rights. You will need to research the briefing paper well and get good solid supporting information, and then present a well-reasoned, factually-based argument about what the agency should do in general. But then you will need to also prepare a report for Jen’s solicitor at the Glenaurie Community Legal Service. The Manager and the Management Committee have expressed their faith in you by requesting this work. So off you go.
You plan the work out and arrive at the following structure and process for meeting the requirements.
For this first assessment piece you must prepare a report for the agency’s Manager and the Management Committee and one for Jen’s solicitor. You are to prepare this on the basis that you are the social worker at the Marigold Community Centre in Glenaurie.
- A succinct introduction outlining the brief and the identified reasons as to why the agency requires the advice and a policy – what is it seeking to address?
- The rights of service users and others to receive quality services – include explanations of the relevant aspects of the law such as duty of care, principles of administrative law that are pertinent to the Marigold Community Centre, steps to be taken by the agency to ensure quality of service and accountability mechanisms for achieving this.
- Outline how international conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples might be properly incorporated into the agency’s operations.
- Legal, ethical and organisational aspects as to how the agency should deal with the handling of client and service information. This will include such aspects as recording and storing of information, processes for accessing it and releasing it to service users and other third parties. Include the principles that will guide the agency. Provide a compelling justification for agency decisions about how ‘need to know’ is determined, and on what basis information will or will not be released, and in what circumstances.
- How much and what sorts of information would you suggest should be included in any referral report of an agency service user/client to another agency? Is there any information you are aware of that you consider should remain confidential and not be included in these types of reports?
- A detailed examination of the how the agency’s administrative and professional decision making processes can incorporate the principles of natural justice and processes for procedural fairness. This will examine how service users/clients can enquire into and challenge agency decision making about matters relevant to them.
The Report to the Solicitor
- Correctly address the report and identify its subject matter.
- Provide a succinct introduction that outlines the request, Jen and the family’s demographic details, followed by your own position, qualifications and agency details including programs and services. Include any other relevant material.
- A summarised outline of the presenting issues and the services provided to Jen and the family (you will determine how much and what sorts of information to include/exclude).
- The factual events of your work with Jen and the family that are relevant to the legal matter at hand (check what the legislation of criminal sentencing identifies), including significant events/developments (you will determine how much and what sorts of information to include/exclude).
- Your professional assessments and conclusions based on the facts including the potential and likely prognosis for addressing Jen’s issues and the family needs, and the possible impacts upon her and the family of various sentencing options.
- An outline of an intervention/service plan for Jen and the family (if they agree).
HSSW513 Human Rights The Law And Social Justice
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