If people in receipt of services are to achieve the control over their own lives envisioned in the Government’s Valuing People Now strategy there must be a sea change in the identification, assessment and management of risk.
A person-centred approach is crucial, and social care providers must foster a culture of positive risk taking in contrast to the current risk averse culture, which too often predominates. There must be recognition that for risk management to be effective and empower individuals, a partnership must exist between the person being supported, their unpaid circle of supporters and staff paid by the support provider.
The person-centred approach undoubtedly ensures that the wishes of the individual are identified at the beginning of the process so that everyone involved has a shared understanding of the purpose of the assessment. This, in turn, supports the Mental Capacity Act 2005 Deprivation of Liberty safeguards, which are “designed …to prevent arbitrary decisions that deprive vulnerable people of their liberty.”
The challenge for providers is to enable their staff to recognise that support workers are in a person’s life to provide support, advice and guidance, but not to take control. This will become ever more important as the personalisation agenda grows, and places an additional onus on support providers and frontline staff to work with people to take positive risks in their lives.
The role of paid staff also becomes more important where people do not have natural circles of support in place – perhaps because they have lost touch with their families, for example. It is vital that these people are given the same opportunities to fulfil their dreams as those who do have a support network in place
Asking staff to take a leap of faith and support a person to take risks to achieve what they want in life can place staff in an invidious position. They may fear exposing the person supported to the risk of harm, or failure, or hurt – although this is inherent in the nature of positive risk taking.
They may also fear for themselves, or their continued employment, if the risk taken does not pay off.
So, how can an organisation demonstrate that it will support staff, who support people, to take positive risks? I believe they must:
- Make explicit their encouragement of staff to explore what’s important to the people they are paid to support, and to take managed risks to make progress
- Make it clear in risk management policies that staff engaged in reasonable risk taking are acting under their employer’s instructions
- Provide sincere, swift and whole hearted support for staff when positive risk taking doesn’t work out
- Exercise control over risks associated with things which are important for people.
It is by no means an easy path to tread – but it is one that is essential if providers are serious about supporting people to live a full and fulfilled life.
Shonagh Methven, Senior HR Business Partner, Health & Safety.
This blog is part of a series on the topic of person-centred organisations and approaches. It is also tied in to the release of Creating Person-Centred Organisations, by Stephen Stirk and Helen Sanderson – which is based around the story of United Response.
If you are new to person-centred thinking, you may be interested in our new series of videos in which our managing director Bob Tindall explores different facets of the topic.
You can access the full playlist of videos on the United Response Youtube Channel.