Yesterday evening, at Just Harvest’s office, something incredible happened: Department of Public Welfare caseworkers and clients came to a new understanding about their relationship and their shared struggles.
More than a dozen food stamp clients along with two caseworkers from local county assistance offices met at Just Harvest to discuss follow-up plans for Just Harvet’s campaign concerning the Department of Public Welfare (DPW)’s customer service problems.
There was tension in the room. But what broke out wasn’t a fight – it was a candid discussion.
The clients were excited to have the opportunity to speak to caseworkers directly about their painful experiences dealing with DPW and to realize that the workers are on their side. This was a huge break-through: the realization that poor customer service results not from a lack of empathy, but a lack of resources. The clients in the room came to understand how caseworkers are consistently stymied by inadequate DPW processes as well as under-staffing.
The meeting, scheduled for just one hour, lasted more than three. By the end it, the clients and caseworkers were shaking hands. Client Linda Davis said, “I’m sure glad they came and want to help.”
Sally Jo Snyder from the Consumer Health Coalition, Sister Janice Vanderneck of Casa de San Jose, Chris West from the Food Security Partnership were also in attendance and contributed to the discussion.
On October 30, 2013 a panel of Just Harvest’s clients met with the Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare Beverly Mackereth and presented her with a list of demands, which we feel would drastically improve the quality of customer service at the county assistance offices.
A subsequent meeting with Tom Strickler, the Director of the DPW’s Bureau of Operations is planned for Friday, April the 4th. A group of Just Harvests’ clients and staff will meet with Strickler to make sure that the leadership of the welfare department is held accountable to making real and effective changes in serving consumers.