Monday, 1 February 2010

Social Inclusion - does it exist?

Social Inclusion has long been a mantra for organisations representing clients who may be isolated or marginalised for one reason or another.  Government think-tanks in the early 2000s identified  key areas or social domains relevant to people's lives and development in the mainstream world.  These are: employment, the arts, spirituality & cultural identity, volunteering, sports & healthy living, family and neighbourhood. 

As a social inclusion bridge builder for mental health, I work with clients who wish to access Arts & Culture .  The social inclusion approach will ask a client to identify which social domains they would like to prioritise for inclusion in mainstream.  The bridge builder's role is then to signpost the client to the mainstream domain which has been prioritised.  In order to facilitate this, bridge builders must have a wide network of local and regional contacts in his or her field of expertise.  Further support relates only to how much or how little the client requests.

As Arts bridge builder for example, I need to know what is out there for clients who may wish to do arts courses or rehearse and record their music.  Other clients may be seeking self-employment through tutoring, performing or composing.  All of these aspirational goals have had successful outcomes, some of them quite outstanding.  All the clients referred to mainstream come from a background of 'severe and enduring' mental health conditions.

The bridge building service is not a clinical or diagnostic one, although we work closely with Community Mental Health Teams.  It is designed to enable clients to participate in mainstream, based on their own preferences, choices, skills and dreams.  Clients are free to choose whether to disclose their illnesses or not. 

When the arts bridge builder meets with a client, the key questions are 'what do you wish to see happen for yourself' or 'what would you like to do'.  Bridge building focuses on aspiration, goals and innate gifts and talents.  And that's it.  

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