Regardless of which field this work is applied to, whether in working with people experiencing mental health issues, people with a disability, young people, people who are experiencing homelessness or people experiencing domestic and family violence, the goal is the same: to make a difference in that person’s life. How then do we know if we are making a difference?

For a difference to exist, there has to be a discernable change between the ways things were before and how they are now. One of the ways to identify a movement or an alteration in the state of being of a person, is to consider where they are in their journey – Penna (i) refers to this as their ‘condition’.

What is meant by 'condition'?

"Condition", as in the situation in which the person finds themself is a subjective measure, but it is important to give us an understanding of the current state. Condition is different to a person’s situation. For example, a person may be an alcoholic or they may change that and be a “recovering alcoholic”. By measuring the changes in the person’s situation, services can determine whether individual programs or their organisation as a whole has contributed to a positive change for a person.

Condition, therefore can be a strong indicator of the persons situation, positive or negative.  If condition of an individual is not improved, then their situation may suffer.

If a service works with someone they have successfully helped to a status of recovering alcoholic, it’s important that they also consider the person’s condition. If this does not occur then the service may not recognise that the person’s condition is stable but requires ongoing counselling.  For example; without continued counselling, the recovering alcoholic could have a negative change and revert back to being an alcoholic.

What does this mean in terms of satisfaction?

To be able to identify what is most important to a person in the context of satisfaction, it is necessary to understand and give an indicator of where they are on a continuum. It is not necessary, nor feasible to have established increments for every sector. A standard five stage continuum of stability has been found to suit a wide range of situations and service types.

By working with the person to identify where they are on the continuum provides a useful basis for discussing supports required.

In Crisis

The worst condition on the scale. The person is experiencing most or / all of the worst negative effects of the specific problem. For example a chronically homeless person may be sleeping on the streets in the dead of winter. A habitual substance abuser may be using to the extent that he has lost his job, his licences and  home, A family may be torn by issues of domestic violence. In Crisis condition is bleak.

Vulnerable

This is a situation where the worst has not happened yet, or where the worst has been temporarily overcome. The key to the Vulnerable condition description is that things are teetering on the brink & could collapse or return to the In Crisis condition at any time.

Stable

The stable situation is one in which circumstances might not be ideal, but at least they are not getting worse at the moment. This is the situation where the corner has been turned & imminent danger is no longer there. At the same time, it is a situation where much remains to be done. The homeless person may have been placed in accommodation, but without continued support may be homeless again soon. The substance abuser may be on track & working, but without support, may slip back into the same patterns of using drugs. This is the situation that says “Our work is only half done”

Safe

This is the “We’ve done our job situation” The danger to this person, family or community has passed. While remedial services may no longer be needed, monitoring and perhaps a maintenance program is generally appropriate.

Thriving

This is situation that begins to approach the ideal conditions. This is the situation where everything is going well, where dangers & threats are no longer in view there the service, or program’s involvement is no longer needed & the situation is self-sustaining.

(i) Penna, R. 2011 The Nonprofit Outcomes Toolbox New Jersy. Wiley & Sons. pp 21.

The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services has developed a series of resources for leading social services staff, and those in related disciplines, to practice in an outcomes-focused way. Leading for Outcomes is a series of guides that provide support and training materials to...

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