Social services and the poor: A qualitative study of Benue State, Nigeria
The study aimed at characterizing poverty in qualitative terms focusing specifically on the access aspect. Main element of access problem were affordability quality as well as constraints facing the poor coupled with their capacity to evolve alterative coping strategies. Based government areas were selected wherein villages or communities represented with different poverty statuses as regards availability and the quality of social services. First hand information was obtained directly from the poor themselves through group interviews using an unstructured interview guide applied by tape recorders and note-taking. Supplementary sources data included direct observation, documentary materials, focus group discussions (FGD) and selected case studies. It was found that the physical availability of certain services is not equitable and fail to synchronize well with the priority expressed by the poor. Second, the quality of services leaves much to be desired as exemplified in clinics without drugs and beds, let alone doctors and schools without chalk and other important items as well as qualified teachers. Third, access is hampered by the inability of the poor to even afford the basic services owing the limited ability to generate purchasing power. The study concludes that the current approach to social services provision runs head-long into access problems that hamper the combined efforts of governments and donor agencies to alleviate poverty in the populace; hence the need for incorporating the access factor in strategies in the country has to come very obvious.
Keywords: Poverty, Social services, Access, qualitative measures.