Success Story: Community Social Work in Pietermaritzburg

SAFMH News Room

By Busisiwe Mtolo, Social Worker at Pietermaritzburg Mental Health

In 2017 Pietermaritzburg Mental Health received a referral for this family from community workers, as the family desperately needed services from PMB Mental Health. The case was given to the area Social Worker to intervene. The family consisted of father, mother and their two sons Sphamandla 15yrs and Sbusiso 19yrs who were both diagnosed with an intellectual disability with care dependency grants and also a disabled son Joe, living with relatives elsewhere. The parents presented as also possibly having intellectual disabilities but have never been assessed or diagnosed.

The worker’s assessment of the family challenges were quite severe and included alcohol consumption, debt and poor budgeting of the disability grants and general conditions of neglect of the whole family as they had mostly no food, adequate clothing or household goods, in fact their house was empty! The worker first started to develop the trust of the family and then had to negotiate with the creditors in the community on how the family will start to repay their debts, by paying small budgeted portions until all the debts were fully paid. The family was then taught to shop for groceries in town to prevent further debt. For the first time Sphamandla and Sbusiso were able to enjoy Christmas clothes and a Christmas lunch in their home!

In 2018 the organisation assisted the family to buy second hand furniture for the house which included some single beds, a lounge suit and a wardrobe using their disability grant income. Thereafter the worker assisted the family to paint their house, buy curtains, mats and bed linen. The worker continued to closely monitor the family’s progress and ensure that they do not fall back into debt.

In 2019 the family arranged, with guidance, to lay-bye for more furniture of the house such as a fridge, kitchen scheme, and to replace the very old lounge suite and it was all successfully paid up before Christmas.

In 2020 the parents planned with the social worker to purchase a stove and their bed. The worker assisted them to negotiate a 12-month lay-by and before the Christmas 2020 the furniture was fully paid. Later last year the social worker assisted the parents to bring their first born adult son back home, Joe was living with relatives who were previously refusing to let him come home. Joe is so happy to be home he said he can’t believe the changes at the family home.

What a transformation and improvement to their quality of life! Even the community workers were so impressed

Plans for 2021 are to extend the house by building a bedroom for Joe as he has been cramped sharing a room with his younger brothers. Lay-bys on the building material will be done. Joe still doesn’t have an ID or birth certificate.  He has also presented symptoms of an intellectual disability, however he can’t be assessed yet as there is no identity document. The worker is still working on this to get him registered with the Department of Home Affairs, then a psychological assessment of him and both his parents!

Evaluation of the past three years: The parents have both developed insight and an understanding that it is important to use the disability grant of their children wisely and they have also reduced their use of alcohol. The parents can see that family life has improved in a positive way. They have learned to prioritise their children’s needs when doing their budget with the worker’s support. Sphamandla and Sbusiso are so happy and content to have a warm home now they are even having winter clothes and every year their parents are buying them Christmas clothes and school uniforms.

The worker has withdrawn slowly from close supervision when they are buying groceries and  basic needs of the family, and is continuing to monitor them regularly to ensure they continue to do everything well. However even though the parents have done so well and are motivated to do their best to  be independent, they might not be able to work completely independently without some supervision.

This success story shows that with dedication to the task, much patience and perseverance amazing progress can be made, with a social worker rendering services to families in the community, especially if they are willing. This also shows that people living with a mental disability within the community, even an entire family can grow and learn and improve their quality of life which is the mission of all Mental Health Societies!  We are so proud of this family’s strides to independence and of the work we do for PMB Mental Health!

Image by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Subscribe to Our Newsletter


COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

Please visit the COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal at Alternatively contact the Emergency Hotline: 0800 029 999 or the WhatsApp Support Line: 0600 123456