The Simon Heng column

This week, I was invited to take part in an initiative put
together by my local social services department. As part of the
induction programme for each new member of staff, they are required
to attend a “welcome” session.

The sessions extend to all new members of staff, including
members of the departmental management team, middle management,
front-line social workers, home care assistants, receptionists and
support workers. The idea is to foster a collective sense of
purpose throughout the department, to ensure everyone who works in
social services knows their role in the organisation has a direct
effect on service users’ and carers’ lives.

To that end, we service users have been invited to take part.
Not only to speak to new staff about our organisation’s involvement
in staff training, planning and monitoring, but also to work with
small groups to look at how their individual roles could affect
service users’ lives, both positively and negatively .

Another underlying message is that service users are becoming an
integral part of decision-making, training and education within the
department, and that users’ and carers’ views are important. It’s
always good to know that the work you do makes a difference. So I
hope the new staff involved will feel engaged, and have a sense of
purpose, right from the start.

Administrative workers, such as those in finance, struggled to
see how their roles had a direct impact on service users. We needed
to work hard to help them recognise the importance of clear
communication and prompt payment to make direct payments
manageable, for example.

Many administrative workers in social services departments
across the country do their jobs with understanding and empathy,
but I would guess that many of them have come to this attitude
informally, rather than as a result of deliberate policy. This has
been an oversight.

Only time will tell if this programme will have any effect, but
I believe that trying to foster a corporate identity to which every
worker can subscribe is a great idea.


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