Best practice in service delivery

Communities and disability services organisations have an obligation to develop policies, procedures and standards of practice that aim to eliminate bias and discrimination in their service delivery.

It is important to look for strategies at both the service level and the individual level. Below are some effective strategies for eliminating bias and discrimination.

Engaging with CALD clients and co-workers

Key issues when you are engaging in direct contact with CALD clients and co-workers include:

  • finding out the individual’s preferred language and engaging an interpreter if required
  • developing a cultural understanding by acknowledging all three layers of cultural factors (and individual culture)
  • being sensitive to the individual’s gender preferences
  • being conscious of physical contact, especially with those of the opposite sex
  • being aware of differences in eye contact or handling belongings
  • consulting the CALD person regarding their religious practice and making appropriate arrangements for them
  • being aware of bereavement ritual or funeral practices
  • being aware of differences in communication styles
  • being aware of differences in interpretation of meanings
  • clarifying the similarity of and differences between the provision of services in the person’s country of origin and Australia.

Cultural sensitivity in service delivery

Here are some important ways of ensuring cultural sensitivity when you are delivering services to clients:

  • Do not lump all groups together just because their first language is not English.
  • Do not ignore differences within the ethnic and racial groups themselves.
  • Provide information in languages other than English (at least the most predominant languages in your immediate community).
  • Recognise that programs which ignore specific customs of groups are inaccessible.
  • Identify structures and processes which discourage participation.
  • Work from the premise that race and ethnicity are not static and customs change.
  • Never underestimate the effects of racism in people’s daily lives.
  • Be prepared to be flexible and adapt your work practices to suit client needs.

Service-level strategies for eliminating bias and discrimination

Here are some strategies that can be used to promote cultural sensitivity among staff:

  • Provide regular training for staff, to develop their knowledge of cross-cultural practice and cultural sensitivity.
  • Encourage staff to engage in cultural consultation when working with CALD clients.
  • Employ bilingual staff or ethnic-specific workers to provide bilingual/bicultural services and also improve knowledge of cross-cultural practice.
  • Create an open atmosphere for staff to bring up their concerns.

Further examples of best practice strategies are shown below.

Organisational strategies to eliminate discrimination

Organisations need to spend time training staff in cultural diversity and strategies for effective communication. Discrimination often occurs when one culture does not understand another.

Below are strategies to either eliminate discrimination or empower a group to rise above discrimination:

  • Provide facts, statistics or information that enables people to seek assistance or obtain information regarding other cultures (informed decision-making).
  • Develop an anti-discrimination policy.
  • Set up advisory boards with cultural representatives.
  • Have an advisory group help devise a plan for a series of events that will draw attention to discrimination.
  • Contact members of the local media (i.e. local newspaper, radio, etc.) to ask if they will use their respective mediums to promote a greater awareness of discrimination.
  • Foster mutual respect in the workplace.
  • Spend time getting to know people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
  • Create environments that allow for a great deal of exchange among participants.
  • Know how to establish and encourage positive and appropriate relationships with people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
  • Be aware of your own values and do not seek to impose them upon others.
  • Use correct terminology when referring to a person from a culturally diverse background.
    Challenge abusive or derogatory terms.
  • Establish a standard of conduct.

(Jouridine 2002)

Culturally biased assumptions in counselling

Based on Paul Pederson’s (1994) list of assumptions, it is important that you do not assume that:

  • We all share a single measure of ‘normal’ behaviour.
  • All societies use the individual as a basic unit.
  • Only problems defined within the expertise of counsellors are the concerns for counsellors.
  • Everyone understands professional jargon in the same way it was intended.
  • Independence is desirable and dependence is undesirable.
  • Clients are helped more by formal services than by their natural support systems.

(Adapted from Pederson 1994, p.113)

Case study: Cultural assumption relating to co-worker

Read the case study below and answer the two question that follow. Enter your response into the text boxes provided.

A worker at a detention centre talked about an issue between staff which related to cultural expectations.  The solid male Polynesian direct care worker refused to work a shift with a junior Asian female worker – perceiving her polite manner and her slight physique to indicate an inability to deal with difficult situations and he felt that he would not be sufficiently supported by this staff member if a crisis arose.

The Asian worker was told of the situation and she addressed the issue directly and assertively with him. He then accepted that she could ‘handle’ herself.

  1. What might be key features of the Asian worker’s body language and appearance evident in this situation? For each feature, briefly describe possible interpretations that led to the male workers assumption.
  1. What do you need to do to check that your interpretations or assumptions are correct?

Case study: Cultural bias relating to client

Read the case study below and answer the two question that follow. Enter your response into the text boxes provided.

You have just taken up the case management of a young Thai man in his mid-20s.  This has rekindled your memories of having your wallet stolen in Thailand while on holidays two years before.  Having your wallet stolen caused you a lot of trouble at the time.

When you met the client, you mentioned to the client how unsafe Thailand was. You told the Thai man that although Thais were Buddhists, they were quite greedy. You said that you understood most Thais were poor and in need of money.

The client did not turn up for his next appointment. 

  1. What are the likely reasons for the client not turning up for his next appointment?
  1. What strategies could you use to prevent such conflict/bias from happening again?
Last modified: Thursday, 3 November 2016, 11:49 AM