Policy Conversations: Rethinking the Use of ‘Vulnerable’ Wrap

TasCOSS’s latest Policy Conversation: Rethinking the Use of ‘Vulnerable’ had a great turnout with representatives from more than 40 organisations present to witness a rich discussion on the value and challenges of the term ‘vulnerable’ and its use in the community services industry. Special thanks to Dr Catherine Robinson (Anglicare Tasmania’s Social Action Research Centre) — our wonderful guest speaker — for her time, expertise and passion.

If you were among the attendees, we’d be really grateful if you could fill out this short survey giving us feedback on this Policy Conversation. This will help us improve in the future and strive to meet your needs. You can also suggest topics for future Policy Conversations in the survey or email them through directly to Dr Lucy Mercer-Mapstone (lucy@tascoss.org.au) or Dr Charlie Burton (charlie@tascoss.org.au).

If you weren’t able to attend, the session was recorded and is openly available here and below.

In summary, here is some of the key takeaways from the session:

  • It is critical to remember the link between the individual and the broader social structure that causes or maintains certain vulnerable circumstances. As one participant stated, “I would like to see a term that not only highlights this relational nature of harm but also calls more directly to those who can or do harm, rather than speaks to how someone is vulnerable.”
  • We need to intentionally make more explicit and specific the language we use to describe vulnerability (and other related terms such as ‘resilience’ or ‘disadvantage’) — connecting the individual with the system. As one participant stated, “these terms still have use, as long as we take care to define them, and don’t rely on them as a shortcut.”
  • It is valuable to make time to consider and discuss these concepts critically with our colleagues to continue to push forward our thinking and practice.
  • We, as professionals in a large industry, can be agents of change with expertise and capacity to identify persistent problems in systems and lead by example when it comes to creating the change we want to see — both in our language and elsewhere.