Cops’ compassion isn’t social work

There is a gap in service delivery that is leaving communities reeling with how to manage complex problems.

To the Editor,

Re: Police forced into social work, Editorial, May 1.

While I appreciate the comments your paper is making about the erosion of the social safety net and health infrastructure as it relates to vulnerable people with mental illness, it is incorrect to say that police officers are being “forced into social work.”

It is heartening to see that compassion and understanding are increasing amongst police officers responding to the socio-economic and psycho-social realities in B.C. The contacts police officers make with citizens should not be described as ‘social work.’ Social work is a profession with a distinct education and a specialized skill set. Social workers have a code of ethics and professional standards that are very different than those of police officers.

Your editorial correctly identifies high caseloads for existing social workers and lack of care available to people with complex health conditions. However there is no mention of the high number of social work jobs that are being eliminated from the health care system in B.C. There is a gap in service delivery that is leaving communities reeling with how to manage the kind of complex problems that people are left to cope with on their own.

Hope springs eternal that the B.C. government will demonstrate leadership, vision and commitment to providing care and services to our most marginalized and fragile citizens before it is too late for some of them to survive their challenging and tragic lives.

Tracey Youngvia e-mail