Donna Murray from Social Work Scotland shares her thoughts following the ALLIANCE Annual Conference session What Matters to You.
We all want to be heard, valued and respected. We want to be connected. We want to be safe and choose where and how we live. Our lives can be messy and unpredictable, joyful and heartbreaking but never static. We want our strengths recognised, and to find someone alongside us when life takes an unexpected turn.
As specialised workers, we are trained to understand this landscape, and learn to play an active role in all those transitions we move through in life, including the trickier ones when there are risks, for safety or legal reasons, and when difficult judgements have to be made.
Building a trusted relationship, putting people at the centre, and learning what – and who – is important to them, are the tools of our trade. We’re not there to fix, give a quick answer or complete a form. It’s our job to listen, reach a genuine shared decision, and then to see how things are going.
So how did we allow a range of circumstances to obscure the importance of these relationships after all the development of relationships requires at least as much attention and skilled hard work as processes, systems and business improvement.
Why now do we need innovative approaches, reforms, redesigns and initiatives to help put the tools back in our collective bags? When did we stop asking ‘What Matters to You?’
Our current legislation and systems in health and social care, set up with good intentions and reviewed by Christie in 2011, need investment and modernisation. Without our workforce, they’re simply a collection of static parts. Without humans, there is no opportunity for the system to ‘live’, and to provide opportunities for people to thrive, mend, rehabilitate, contribute and to be well.
Imagine if our workforce had a mandate from leaders and society to restore and rehabilitate relationship based practice. Professionals, trusted to practice as trained, and led by compassionate leaders. A workforce using the tools of the trade and given permission to build relationships and collaborations. A workforce that confidently promotes social justice and upholds our rights and shares collective responsibility to collaborate in monitoring and improving our human systems. A workforce that equally has opportunities to reflect, learn and renew itself.
There are lots of fantastic, tried and tested approaches out there. To name but a few – What Matters To You, Self-directed Support, Panel Principles, Good Conversations, Personal Outcomes Approach, Realistic Medicine, Getting it Right for Every Child (and Adult), House of Care, Community-led Support -all social contracts bringing together communities and workforce, people, leaders and systems helping us provide care and support, and upholding rights and ensuring social justice. They enable co-operative partners to share responsibility for helping make things happen.
The golden thread through them all is the person at the centre. Us and what matters most to us. Us and all our interdependent relationships. All the people hanging onto that thread want to know ‘What Matters to you?’ and ‘Who Matters to You?’.
For further information on approaches to person centred care, visit the following resources: