The Importance Of Person Centred Planning In Human Services

February 1st, 2016 / By Kathleen Moore CSW Instructor/Faculty Head

Whether you are attempting to find a new place to live, learn a new skill, or make any change in your life, it is understood that you need to make informed decisions on how you, as a unique individual, can accomplish your own goals and meet your own needs. When working as a Community Services Worker, or in any other capacity as a Human Service Worker, your job will include helping people to make informed decisions that light their own paths, regardless of what you or anyone else feels is ‘right’ for them.

community service worker talking with client

Taking care of people’s welfare is one of the key responsibilities of Community Services Workers.


No two people are alike in their abilities and strengths, so no two people can be alike in their ability to solve personal, unique problems. This is the catalyst to the development of Person Centred Planning.  We all do things differently; look at the way we hold a pen, tie our shoelaces, or travel from one place to another.  We have our own way of making sense of the world and putting ourselves in better places – in what we define as better places, based on our perception of the world.  Person Centred Planning takes away anyone’s right to tell you that you’re not doing it properly.  It takes into account that, as long as you are not harming anyone, you are able to decide your own path through your own life.

The theoretical perspective that is shaping the social services field helps us to understand the basics of Person Centred Planning.  Human Services is, by nature and label, Humanistic.  When we decide to work in this field, we take on specific beliefs about other people.  Mainly, we believe that people do what they feel they need to do to survive and thrive.  We believe that sometimes, despite people’s best intentions, life doesn’t work out the way we plan it.  We realize that everybody wants to be the best person they can be; sometimes, people get stuck.  The final, ultimate belief in social services should be that every single person knows how they need to change their situations in order to be the best person they can be.  Our job is not to tell people what to do or who to become, but to prove to them that they already know what they need and what they are capable of achieving.

Person Centred Planning has evolved in social service history as our perspective of social issues has evolved.  If we go back to the beginning of Canada’s systems and laws, people did not always have the freedom to choose what was best for them.  At the turn of the 20th century, parents were not given the choice to raise children with physical or mental disabilities; people with mental health concerns had no rights to guard against institutionalization; those with physical or mental disabilities were not given the benefit of being understood, or being a part of their own societies.  People’s livelihoods, and ultimately their dignity and worth, were defined by someone labelled as ‘more informed’; often, someone who fit society’s idea of powerful or desirable.  As we move forward with our history, it isn’t until much later, and even into the 21st century, that people start to advocate for change in this area.

Today, because of human service advocacy (or Social Justice Mandate), Government inquests and reports, and boosting the voices of those affected by social problems (peer involvement), we have created a system that gives every individual more dignity and integrity to live their lives based on their own decision making power.

If we want people to live their lives with integrity and we are expected to work as professionals in the Human Service field, we need Person Centred Planning and Humanistic beliefs; we cannot move forward believing that we know better than the people who are living through it, whatever ‘it’ is.  We may have suggestions that someone has never thought of, we may have ideas that expand on our client’s goals, but we do not ever know what will work for another person without discussing their plans first.

After all, we are not the experts when discussing our client’s concerns: they are.  We can’t imagine that we know better than the person who is currently living it, within their own context.  We are in this field to be allies and to support the informed decisions of others.

We are not here to help people.  We are here to help people help themselves.


Kathleen Moore is Social Service Worker graduate of Mohawk College, currently instructing the Community Service Worker Diploma Program at triOS College, Hamilton Campus.  She has also obtained a certificate in Concurrent Disorders from Mohawk College, and is a Certified Non-Violent Crisis Intervention Instructor for triOS College.  Kathleen’s main expertise is working with people who have mental health concerns and/or cognitive disabilities.  She has worked for many years in a mental health drop-in centre that focuses mainly on the recovery model of treatment, and also has experience with The Salvation Army, St. Matthew’s House, The Good Shepherd Centres, and smaller “grass roots” agencies.  Kathleen has experience with residential and day program settings, measurable outcome models, program planning, working alongside families of clients, day care centres, senior’s centres, youth programs (mainly suicide prevention), and suicide crisis intervention.

Visit triOS College’s Community Service Worker program page to learn more.