Friday, March 11, 2005

The difficulty in assessing a negative

Community Development work has been steadily losing respect, popularity and funding from Governments and others in positions of power since the 1970's.

This is primarily because CD work by its very nature is hard to quantify. It can also be too political. We are now assessing everything we spend healthcare money on (and I'm all for due diligence). But how can we prove that putting support in place today and maintaining that support and building resilience and strength can help 23 people in 3 years from now? What of recurring biyearly funding applications that demand to see snapshots and outcomes?

Let's just use Autism Spectrum Disorder as an example. You are the carer of a 3 year old child who has been diagnosed with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder. You have an older child who is at school. Naturally you want your children to go to the same school. You make some enquiries and find that the Education department can support your child into mainstream education, but there is a two year waiting list to find and train the right support person for your child.
You hear about the local ASD support group which was started by the CD worker attached to your Community health centre and attend. You hear similar stories from other carers. You begin a letter writing campaign to your local MP. You hold stalls in the local community and raise money to buy paints and cardboard to write placards to take on the bus you hire to attend State parliament to agitate for recognition, funding and change...

CD work, not too popular with governments who prefer to keep like-minded people separate because to put them in one place creates the impetus for structural change and they can't be having any of that.

This new money will address the most acute cases and probably reduce completed suicide rates, however, I'm with Professor Hickie that this will do very little to improve the day to day lives of those that live in our community struggling with non-acute mental health issues.

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