This month’s research bulletin includes articles and reports about harm reduction in BC, substance misuse, vulnerable youth, child exploitation, mental health, social work outcomes, inequality, and reconciliation-informed policy and practice.
- Vulnerability and child sexual exploitation: Towards an approach grounded in life experiences (2018, UK)
- Decision Support Systems, Social Justice and Algorithmic Accountability in Social Work: A New Challenge (2019, UK)
- Mobile supervised consumption services in Rural British Columbia: lessons learned (2019, Canada)
- True, Lasting Reconciliation: Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in BC law, policy, and practices (2018, Canada)
- Let’s stop blaming ourselves for stigmatizing mental health (2019, Canada)
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1. Vulnerability and child sexual exploitation: Towards an approach grounded in life experiences
This study uses the concept of vulnerability as a frame through which to understand and address the issue of child sexual exploitation. Researchers used qualitative interviews and participatory workshops (including life mapping and in-depth discussions) to collect information and insights from people who had experienced child sexual exploitation.
The study examined how vulnerability is shaped through individual factors, situational dynamics, and structural forces (family bonds, disrupted attachments, particular places, social divisions, institutional responses) and explores lived experiences to provide valuable insights into possible programming and legislative responses.
The authors argue that in order to respond effectively to vulnerability inherent in cases of child sexual exploitation, we need to move beyond discussions of ‘risk factors’ and denial of agency and towards an understanding of ‘critical moments,’ intersectional inequalities, social marginality and how these shape the actions of vulnerable young people.
2. Decision Support Systems, Social Justice and Algorithmic Accountability in Social Work: A New Challenge
Across a range of fields (social work, health, education, criminal justice), government departments and organizations have amassed an enormous amount of data about citizens. And now new techniques for extracting and analyzing this data are being used to develop algorithmic-driven decision support systems—the “next generation” of decision support tools in the vein of checklists and practice frameworks like Signs of Safety or Solution Based Casework.
This new approach has mainly been deployed in criminal justice and child welfare services (e.g., to predict outcomes for someone who accessed a service or model potential child welfare interventions). However, these systems have already been shown to make incorrect recommendations to decision-makers, or recommendations which perpetuate existing social prejudices that disadvantage service users.
This article provides insight into current examples where this new decision-making approach has been deployed and suggests principles and approaches that might prevent new decision-making processes from perpetuating injustice and inequality. The authors also suggest that social workers must serve as advocates where such systems are in place and be educated about how, why, and when the recommendations of such systems should be challenged.
3. Mobile supervised consumption services in Rural British Columbia: lessons learned
This report evaluates the impact of two mobile supervised consumption sites piloted in rural BC communities surrounding Kelowna and Kamloops in response to the overdose-related public health emergency declared in 2016.
The independent evaluation team used quantitative and qualitative data collected from clients, service providers, and community stakeholders to gauge the effectiveness of this new intervention and to provide insights into the unique challenges rural and smaller communities face in responding to BC’s overdose crisis.
According to the report, the mobile supervised consumption sites were considered effective both by those accessing them and those providing services. However, a number of logistical challenges suggest that such interventions should only be considered a temporary solution while long-term services are created in rural communities.
4. True, Lasting Reconciliation: Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in BC law, policy, and practices
This report was jointly produced by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It examines the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as it applies to Canada, takes stock of current efforts to implement the UN Declaration in BC, identifies roles and responsibilities required in implementation efforts, and makes recommendations on actions going forward.
This report is aimed at and relevant for at a wide array of audiences—the general public, politicians, government officials, service providers—and it provides a four-point action plan for the implementation of the UN Declaration in BC to be considered by Indigenous peoples, government, advocates, and the public at large.
5. Let’s stop blaming ourselves for stigmatizing mental health
In this article, a Canadian psychiatry professor surveys and summarizes contemporary mental health research in order to explain why we need more than public education campaigns to address stigma about mental health issues.
According to the author, if we start stigma reduction education with the default assumption that we all hold certain types of stigma (and that we can never eradicate it) we can start having a different kind of conversation. In order to respond in a non-judgmental way to the explicit stigma perpetuated by others, we need to acknowledge and normalize our own implicit stigma; reducing stigma cannot be accomplished without practicing self-compassion and self-forgiveness.
The brief and straightforward article links to many supporting resources and academic research so that readers can further investigate the points that are raised. And while the focus is on mental health, these insights can help practitioners understand and address other stigmatized issues just as effectively.