S.O.S. Steps to Access Social Services


A Practical Guide

Given the recent changes in the social service system for persons with disabilities, it has never been more important for us to exert our power as consumers. Social services, for all intents and purposes, are created as a result of public need and demand. This implies, then, that any citizen who is in need of helping services has the right to access social services. Access, by definition, suggests individuals have the freedom to obtain or make use of social services. The problem, however, is that there is an assumption that citizens know how to access social services.

Having lived the entirety of my life with a physical disability (Charcot Marie Tooth, or CMT), I have experienced firsthand feelings of confusion, frustration and anxiety whenever attempting to access various forms of social assistance. Also, I have discovered, as a professional social worker, that most individuals have similar experiences whenever dealing with the social service system.

For many people, finding and acquiring services is somewhat comparable to the experience of being lost in a forest without a compass. Just as when wandering in the forest, not having a clear sense of direction or a general understanding of the social service system tends to lessen one’s ability to be fully aware of his or her options, which in turn reduces the ability to make appropriate service choices.

S.O.S. Steps to Access Social Services is a compass that will enable readers to find their path through the social service maze. This 136 page “how-to” simplifies a very complex structure. It is written in a fashion that allows you to customize information to fit your lifestyle needs, and it teaches you techniques which will lead you effectively to services that you determine will meet your needs.

Using the consumer perspective as its frame of reference, S.O.S. will enable you to be an active, responsible participant in these areas: determining what your needs are; examining all possible options to fill those needs; and choosing services/supports that are suitable to meet your needs. Basically, S.O.S. presents a four step formula that will guide you through the process of seeking social services.

The first step, plan, focuses on organizing as much information as possible about you. Eight lifestyle components — financial assistance, housing, personal care, transportation, employment, education, community life and recreation and leisure — are outlined in a taking stock manner to help you design your own personal needs plan of action.

The second step, investigate, focuses on learning how to discover which agencies to approach, what to say to them and what to expect during this process. Examples are presented of real life experiences, effective communication techniques, and easy to follow, efficient record keeping forms.

The third step, compare, pulls all the information together in a comparative fashion so that you can make competent consumer decisions to get what you need.

The book’s last step, keep informed, offers suggestions and North American resources to help you keep abreast of current programs, services and product developments that may affect your present and future lifestyle.

Knowledge is power, and S.O.S. Steps to Access Social Services offers the consumer a model to follow to shift his or her thinking from “service user” to “service consumer.” Susan D. Wheeler, B.S.W., is the author of S.O.S. Steps to Access Social Services: A Practical Guide. See below for ordering information.


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