The impact of the Limited Services narrative

Trigger warning: There is brief mention of rape and sexual abuse (in the context of support services) in this post.
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A common narrative in support services across the board is that of “limited services”. We are in no way denying that services need to be improved and the availability of services needs to be increased; these arguments are important in pushing society forward and helping to improve the quality of life for those who need support services. What we are discussing is the narrative of “limited services” itself.

“It’s a chance for me to tell another story about this space that never gets told – the story of the organisations that support people who’ve been raped or abused. In the epilogue I feature a personal hero of mine – Kim who runs the PARCS which is where I conducted the original research for the (my) book. It frustrates me that people like Kim are as invisible to society as the women, men, boys and girls that they support. I hope the book can play some small role in changing that.”

(The above quote is from Dr Nina Burrowes, discussing the PARCS, portsmouth in her book “The courage to be me”, an illustrated book that tells the story of a group of women taking the first steps towards rebuilding their lives after rape or sexual abuse).

Money is a limited commodity, it breeds competition. Importantly, and in addition to this, money is blind. Those who have amassed massive amounts of money are no better than those who have not, the difference is that with money comes power. And with power it is possible to further your cause. In the world of support services, money is scarce and this can create fierce competition between services. But by promoting a narrative that tells an already marginalised group of people- and those who fight and care for them –that there is only one service, “this service”, is not only morally reprehensible but it is irresponsible and it does nothing but further isolate individuals who are just looking for help. When ultimately, they are the very people you are meant to be empowering.

The more that society sees support services as commonplace, the more these services will be valued by society.

The more one continues to approach support services with a monopoly mentality, the more entire populations are disempowered. A few months ago we were approached to run Social Skills workshops in a town over 200 miles away. The expense of travel pushed our estimate up to the extent that we soon realised that the estimate was likely to be too steep. So we did some research, as it turned out a local charity was running Social Skills groups within 10 miles of the people who had contacted us. We provided the people who had contacted us with the details of the local charity and followed up to see how they were getting along. Upon last speaking, we found that they were in the process of finding a venue. This is fantastic news, not only for the service users but for all organisations providing support services.

The more that society sees these services as commonplace, the more these services will be valued by society.To the extent that it would seem ludicrous to a newcomer that a town does not have social skills workshops / family support / disabled access into and throughout all buildings / trauma support / any number of support services. While it is important to campaign for more services and better standards of care, it is equally important to develop a forum for the services already in place. We are firm believers in finding the right fit, not everyone will like the style of our workshops but some people will, some might even love the style of our workshops.

Ultimately, it is our job – and the job of all support services – to encourage every individual who approaches us for help to find the service that they are comfortable with, regardless of any potential behind-the-scenes politics. By ignoring the role of other services, the notion that the needs of the people seeking your help are actively ignored by society is perpetuated. Not only does it further marginalise them, it marginalises you and / or the organisation you work for.

By ignoring the role of other services, the notion that the needs of the people seeking your help are actively ignored by society is perpetuated

The impact of limited services can be (and is) incredibly traumatic. If you have experienced limited services firsthand, or are a close friend/relative of someone, who has spent the majority of their lives searching for help, and completing endless referral appointments only to be left with a further referral or worse; nothing at all. Then you will know that the impact of limited services can be truly devastating. It can lead people to feel hopeless and worthless, impacting on their mental health and physical health. In turn, interpersonal relationships, personal motivation and quality of life suffer.

This is why the role of the narrative of limited services is so important. A service finding that they are the last port of call is not a privilege, it is an opportunity to find the right help for people who have been consistently let down by the systems and services that are meant to be helping them. As services we must work together to ensure that the people who come to us for help are treated with the respect and care that they deserve, and that they are provided with the support that they need.

So readers, we have a favour to ask – please list any support services that you know of (and their location) in the comments of this post, and share it, you might just change someone’s life for the better.

2 responses to “The impact of the Limited Services narrative

  1. Pingback: #Advocacy: How do you tell people about the work you can’t publicise? | 9 Tea Cups·

  2. Pingback: Calling out people who use the limited services narrative | 9 Tea Cups·

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