Chapter 4: Social Services

Torture occurs within a cultural and social context. It breaks the connections between individuals and their social environment. It separates the bonds of communities. Social work interventions, therefore, are directed at individuals, their families and immediate environments, community, social, and functional groups, and policies and systems. These are accomplished through direct service, resource development, community interventions, education and training, research, and public policy work. The provision of social services to survivors of torture is administered by workers with a wide variety of educational foundations and life and work experiences in an assortment of settings. While this chapter is written for professional social workers, the material is appropriate for social services providers regardless of background, training, or specific tasks.

Providing appropriate and effective services to torture survivors requires a degree of expertise in four core fields:

• Knowledge of the story of refugees and asylees — before, during, and after the violence

• Understanding of the nature of torture and its long-term effects on survivors, their families and communities, and the professionals who work with them

• Cultural work with traumatized people

• Best practices for working with interpreters

This chapter augments the information concerning the core competencies presented in Chapter 3. A discussion of social work interventions during resettlement and in the political asylum process, sample scenarios illustrating the impact of the effects of torture on accessing social services, and guidelines for cultural competency and for working with interpreters and clients are included in this section. A brief note on policy work and a summary conclude the chapter.

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