Conference hears call to give power to staff

Social Care Association Annual Seminar 1995 – Reports By Rachel

Social care staff must be given power before service users can
be empowered, said Meg Lindsay, director of the Centre for
Residential Child Care.

Speaking on the conference theme of empowerment, she said if
staff did not have power, they could not give it away, and ‘there’s
not a snowball’s chance that these staff can empower the

Residents and staff had different types of power, Lindsay said,
but argued that the agencies, whether local authority, a voluntary
organisation, or a private company, held the primary power. ‘I
still believe that the agency has total power or the meaningful
power in its hands,’ she said.

Lindsay argued that agencies needed to fundamentally review
their ethos before they could begin to empower service users.

‘Staff need to get their attitudes looked at,’ she said. ‘And
agencies have to. You as an employer cannot do resident empowerment
if you have double standards.

‘We want to value people as equals.

‘What we tend to do is value groups who we think are
disadvantaged, and to hell with the rest,’ she said.

Managers had to sell the vision, and expect to be challenged on
it by empowered staff.

Lindsay urged social care staff to ‘get real’.

‘You create an accepting environment and you act as if the rest
of the world is like that, and it’s not.

‘If you want to empower people, you have to empower them to live
in the real world,’ she said.

Staff also had to accept that empowered residents would not
necessarily agree with their views on how things should be done,
she added.

‘They will want things that you as a professional do not want
them to want.’

To empower users required an information and advice network; a
system for developing user groups because they kept withering; a
comprehensive training programme; and policy statements on users’

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