Developing a Key Worker Service for Families with a Disabled Child

Suzanne Mukherjee, Patricia Sloper, Bryony Beresford and Peter

Social Policy Research Unit
University of York
York YO1 5DD


This pack offers practical advice for managers and practitioners
wishing to set up a key worker service for families with a disabled
child. It provides essential details about what a key worker
service should look like, how to plan and support such a service,
and the tasks needed to turn these plans into reality. Drawing on
lessons from recent practice and research, it presents a realistic
model of how co-ordination in services to disabled children and
their families might best be achieved. The pack suggests that the
process of setting up key working is managed by a multi-agency
steering group.

Initially, a facilitator is needed to gather information and
recruit members to the group. Ultimately it is the group, not the
facilitator, who is responsible for making decisions about the
service. Thereafter the facilitator’s role becomes one of
supporting the work of the group via training sessions and
workshops. Commitment from services to multi-agency working for the
benefits of disabled children and their families is vital to
successful key working. The efforts of practitioners are often
hampered by a lack of resources and a less than enthusiastic
response from senior managers. Although use of the pack assumes
there is already commitment to the ethos of key working, I was
slightly disappointed that no activities, or illustrations, were
geared to address this issue. However, this is a minor criticism
and probably reflects the need for research into the lived
experience of service co-ordination for families, rather than
accepting the benefits as axiomatic.

The pack’s easy-to-read format will be welcomed by busy
practitioners. It is possible to digest its main messages in less
than half a day. It is a comprehensive training resource for
facilitators, presenting thorough background information alongside
suggestions for exercises and activities. The pack is an addition
to a family of publications on the same topic by Suzanne Mukherjee
and her colleagues at the Social Policy Research Unit. Its sister
publications – Real Change Not Rhetoric and Unlocking Key Working
(available from Policy Press) – are equally engaging and
insightful. But this new pack puts the theory into practice.

Ruth Townsley is a research fellow at the Norah Fry
Research Centre, University of Bristol.

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