BureaucraZy: Low-Income Families’ Struggles Accessing Health and Social Services
What is BureaucraZy?
It’s about real people in our community talking about every day issues.
Imagine what it would be like to try and get help for your family and find yourself facing road blocks at every turn. For many families living with low incomes, accessing the basic services they need can be both frustrating and confusing.
BureaucraZy is a film documentary profiling four single mothers with low income who volunteered to share their experiences in accessing health and social services in Alberta. It’s about parents and children in our community who face real structural and systemic obstacles. For more information on the background of the film and the project, click here.
Why is this important for my students to see?
The documentary is about inequities and injustice.
The film puts a face to barriers around service access by highlighting the stories of women and the every day struggles they face. It is a great tool to encourage a discussion and reflection about personal values and assumptions about providing support for vulnerable people and for your students to think about how government should support vulnerable populations.
How can I use the film?
- Can be used as an in-class activity or an out-of-classroom activity
- Documentary film is available online
- Limited amount of DVDs available
- Discussion guide available
Where can I find the film and discussion guide?
The film is approximately 20 minutes long
The online version of the video is found here
To download a copy of the discussion guide: BureaucraZy Discussion Guide
To request a copy of the DVD, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
We would like to hear about your experience using this film within the classroom. Please fill out our quick 5-minute survey
Potentional Discussion Questions To Use With Your Students
Maggie Hodgson references the importance of abiding by a set of beliefs and values to ensure that social service programming and practice is administered in a ‘human way.’
- What beliefs and values underpin Alberta’s health and social service system?
- How do these values and beliefs affect the provision of services to families with low income and consequently, the lives of these families?
- What are some different values and beliefs that could improve the provision of services to families with low income?
One of the film’s main underlying messages is ensuring clients are treated as individuals with their own stories, experiences, struggles, and hopes.
- How can we better support frontline staff who are caught between the requirements placed on them from their system (e.g., accountability for public funds) and the requests for support from families?
A major feature of the women’s stories is their ongoing struggle to meet the needs of their families. For example, one woman received a total of $1668 in income support (medical assistance) and other benefits. Her rent was $1200, so she is left with just over $400 for the rest of her family’s needs (e.g., groceries, utilities, transportation, clothing, etc.).
- A common understanding in government is that social assistance is provided as a patch over program meant to temporarily support low-income Albertans experiencing hardship. How is this belief reconciled with the reality that the amount of income support is insufficient to meet basic needs?
Meet the Women
The complexity of issues faced by families with low income are often rooted in social, economic, and political conditions that extend beyond the control of any one family unit or one service system. “BureaucraZy” features four families who are determined to improve their lives, despite the bureaucratic obstacles they face as they attempt to meet basic needs, advance their education, secure employment, and care for their children.
Connie is a single mother who has raised her two children on her own. “I am at the age now when I want to make a difference. I want to feel like when I go to work, I am doing something to help people.” Connie hopes to return to school to pursue a degree in social work.
Nikki is a single parent of two children with severe disabilities. “I think that a lot of people have the perception that people that are on welfare are lazy, and in it for a free ride.” Nikki had to give up her career due to the lack of specialized child care required for her children.
Brenda is a single mother of six children and two grand children. “Even though I’ve been going up and down on the rollercoaster, I am doing good, I think.” She is currently employed in the early childhood education field.
Judith is a single mother of two teenaged children. “If I am capable of doing things on my own then I don’t abuse the system. I leave it to the others who really need it. But if I am walking in through these doors, I REALLY need that help.” Judith has an administrative background and has been actively looking for employment.