People in social care talk about the reality of their role
Kirsty Telford is client involvement co-ordinator at Broadway, a London charity supporting single homeless and vulnerably housed people to find and keep a home.
Job description: To co-ordinate and develop initiatives that enable homeless people to influence the work of the organisation at all levels.
Skills/qualifications needed: No specific qualifications. You need bundles of enthusiasm, creativity, and confidence to work with vulnerable and homeless people, staff, managers and board members. It is useful to have research and facilitation skills.
Pay scale: National joint council scale point 31 – 35 (£27,009 – £29,718).
What’s your job like? Client involvement is very important in the government’s Supporting People (housing-related) programme. However, it is not a new concept and many organisations have been doing this for years, unprompted by funding.
The easiest way to grasp the concept is to see client involvement as a way of achieving excellent customer service. As organisations, we are paid to provide services to homeless people, therefore it makes sense to ask them how we can improve. Ultimately, staff and clients all want to achieve the same thing – for the organisation to be a good one.
One of the reasons I have been in this job three years is it is such an exciting, satisfying and varied role. No one month has ever been the same and I have been stretched and challenged in my time here. The job certainly keeps you interested and on your toes.
I could be planning an event, running a focus group with clients, meeting with managers to discuss their work, delivering training or making promotional posters for our initiatives fund.
Some examples of projects I have established include: setting up and running the client newsletter; establishing a dialogue between our clients and our senior managers/board members; involving clients in the annual appraisal of staff; involving clients in shortlisting and interviewing new volunteers and staff; running large consultations with clients.
Despite this direct client work, the main “customers” of my role are actually staff. It is not possible for one person to achieve client involvement in the organisation – true client involvement is about culture change. There is a place for organisational-wide opportunities, but unless clients feel they can influence their daily lives, homes and the local services they receive, then they will not see the point in getting involved in the bigger picture.
To support staff effectively, I make sure I understand the service itself, and have developed and delivered staff training, advised on local service planning, and offered advice, guidance and shared new ideas on how to involve clients, in a way that fits with their local service needs.