Lynne Dodson on:

Social Services

Many people think social services are only important for somebody else. For those lucky enough to always be in good health, with good incomes, ample resources, and plenty of close family members nearby, that may be the case. But there comes a time in almost every life when community social services make a critical difference: in times of disability or advancing age, when a family faces health or mental health problems, when working parents face child care or transportation needs, and anytime there is a family tragedy, natural disaster, or minor crisis.

For those moments in our lives, I believe government must be an active, reliable partner working together with a broad array of community agencies, and assuring us all of a solid, stable safety net. While Seattle has a strong network of social service agencies creating that safety net, unfortunately many areas of our state do not; and nowhere is the system fully funded or completely accessible.

We need a legislature that is committed to working toward:

  • Adequate, reliable funding for essential social services across the life-span – from affordable, quality child care to those needed by our growing population of seniors.

  • When needed, assistance in accessing the services.

  • Greater emphasis on prevention - rather than waiting until a problem has escalated to the point of crisis.

  • A range of housing options so there is something affordable for everyone. (According to the Low Income Housing Report, in Seattle one would have to earn more than $17.00 an hour to afford a two-bedroom home.) The lack of affordable housing creates other service needs - e.g., for those who are overcrowded or homeless.

  • A continuum of mental health services from prevention and early intervention through crisis care - so that major problems are prevented and quality of life is preserved.

  • Job training for work at decent wages and when possible, a path for career development. People who work shouldn’t be poor.

In short – social services are critical to a community’s quality of life. We must fund the social and human services that we need, and I will approach this need in the same manner as I approach funding education: define what we need and then ensure adequate funding for those needs. That may involve changes in our tax system to make it fairer, more stable, and more accountable to the taxpayers. At a minimum it requires that we not pit education and human services against each other, as both are critical to ensuring a high quality of life for all.

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