Jill Manthorpe looks at research into successful residential
homes and Ruth Stark examines a study on violence and intimidation
of social workers in Hertfordshire.
The good life in residential homes
An examination of how residential care can be a positive
experience for some.
Moving to a residential home can seem like a failure, but some
people make a decision to enter residential care in a positive
frame of mind – and seem to enjoy their new lifestyle. Much is
known about the failings of poor or abusive institutions, but far
less about these which are highly regarded.
This research redresses these imbalances. Kellaher interviewed
100 residents of Methodist Homes for the Aged (MHA)esidential
homes. Those interviewed were generally capable of most activities
of daily life and had specifically chosen to enter a particular
home. They outlined their adaptations to residential life, and how
they balanced the difficulties of communal living with efforts to
maintain individuality and autonomy.
This research describes how residents make the most of their
In exploring living in a residential home, Kellaher employs
MHA’s written standards. The MHA Model of Care permitted the
research to explore residents’ feelings and opinions. Few
differences in emphasis arose, except that the residents
interviewed were concerned with clothing and dress for their
appearance as well as the activity of being helped with dressing.
They also placed great significance on their own rooms and the
items which they brought with them. Residents spent much time in
their rooms and valued their privacy.
Kellaher develops the idea of structured mutuality as a theory
that helps to reconcile the needs of individual residents and a
home as a whole. She notes the importance of reciprocal
friendliness and sociability in promoting a culture within a home
and observes that this can include residents and staff. These
aspects depend on what individuals bring into the home,
particularly their sense of self and positive feelings about their
This study is important in offering practical suggestions for
shoring up mutuality, and thus the positive features of residential
Source: L Kellaher, A Choice Well Made: Mutuality as
Governing Principle in Residential Care, London Centre for
Policy on Ageing, 2000
Jill Manthorpe a senior lecturer in community care at
the University of Hull.
Violence at work
A study into the stresses faced by child protection workers
affected by threats of aggression
How often have you been phoned at home by an irate parent who
has found your home number, or been followed home to your own
community or home, or been accosted in your private time with your
friends and family? How has your employer protected your right to
privacy in your family life?
This research in Hertfordshire focuses on the long term effect
that child protection work has on main grade staff. Reading this
research and then acting on the findings could help reduce the
numbers of social workers leaving the profession for less stressful
work in the community. This is not just a problem in the
Hertfordshire or the UK, but similar experiences from social
workers in Finland are reported in this research report.
The myth of the physical attack as the most common aggressive
act is exploded, as the research highlights the Developing Violent
Scenario (DVS). The DVS often focuses on an individual worker,
which may develop into activities on the part of the aggrieved
parent or other family member stalking the social worker to their
own community or indeed their home. The research also covered
aggression that often went unreported: “Procedures are available,
but situations of this kind (non-physical) are so common as not to
get recorded as incidents.” It is the slow build-up to the stalking
that is the “hidden” aggression of this research.
Further work is to be published on the comparisons with Finland.
If other European social workers are experiencing similar treatment
at work then we should be encouraging further research and dialogue
with colleagues across Europe.
Source: Brian Littlechild, I Know Where you Live:
How Child Protection Social Workers are Affected by Threats and
Aggression, the centre for community research, department of
health and social care, University of Hertfordshire
Ruth Stark is professional officer, BASW