People working for or in the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare’s Participant Direction Service (PDS) can now log onto a new Google Group to seek answers to common questions.
The PDS allows care recipients to control where, when and how some of their services and supports are delivered. With participant direction they become a type of employer to care workers. There are about 16,000 participants and 20,000 workers involved in the program.
Dina Baker, spokeswoman with Public Partnerships (the company that designed and runs the online forum), said they’ve created many educational programs in the past, but this one needed to be tailored to people that are well-versed in their program.
“They’re a community that can learn from each other and can put their issues in front of each other,” Baker said. “Certainly there’s rule-based questions about how people get paid that’s probably easiest for us to just answer because there’s only one answer, but there’s a lot of questions people have.”
Baker said they choose a Google Group to house the forum because it was a well-known and used site, and because other sites like Facebook didn’t give them the right balance to moderate discussions.
“The option on some of the other sites was all or nothing on one or the other," Baker said. "You completely control it and others can’t post with great independence, or they can post with great independence and you give up ownership completely. And we weren’t comfortable with that. We did want those tools to be in place for the benefit of the community.”
Baker said the forum has three main rules, the first being that new members’ posts are moderated before becoming public. She said they also expect people to be friendly when using the site and work to protect the privacy of system users.
Baker said the forum went live on Aug. 28. People looking to join it must first create a Google account and then sign in at the group’s website.