Literacy staff recommended that, depending on the severity of the condition, a meeting with the potential learner and support worker should be arranged. They recommended sending the Working Together document to the support worker in advance of the meeting. If there is no support worker, they suggested asking the client if there are any potential situations to be aware of, e.g. bouts of depression, anger issues, etc. The more information the assessor has, the easier it is to make an informed decision. If it is obvious that there are mental health issues but the assessor feels the person would benefit from the program, they could suggest a trial period of one month.
When there are obvious mental health challenges, participants suggested trying to find out as much as possible about those challenges and how they impact on the potential learner. They said that very often this information arises naturally in the conversation. Many participants stressed how important it was that literacy staff get permission to speak to other professionals/support people in the learner’s life if it would be helpful and appropriate. Participants suggested creating a potential attendance plan looking at identified barriers and possible solutions. Some of the barriers would include:
Participants suggested that the assessor in the literacy program should ask who the client would like the program to call if there is a problem and ask learners to sign a release of information form. If necessary, literacy staff should wait until trust has been established.
Literacy coordinators recognized the need to protect other learners and staff. They stressed the importance of being explicit in saying why they were not accepting a person. This can be difficult to do; being very open and honest is most helpful for the potential learner. Program staff could suggest that they return in a few months.
Participants suggested that it would be useful to have a checklist of issues to be discussed at an early meeting of the coordinator, client/learner and mental health worker. This could include issues such as the policy if a client needs to take time off because of illness. In cases like this, it might mean that clients who thought it was all over once they had missed some sessions may stay in the program. All they or their support worker would have to do is contact the program to let them know the situation. The situation might not get out of hand and the learner might not feel so threatened.