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Finding the key
A few days ago a Channel 4 documentary told the story of ‘The Stranger on the Bridge’. I talked about this amazing story in a blog last year (Small interactions matter - it's time to talk). This is the true story of Jonny, a young man with severe mental health problems on the verge of ending his own life, who was persuaded by a passer-by, who Jonny christened ‘Mike’ until he met him and found him to be called Neil, to come down off Waterloo Bridge, and talk to Neil who managed to help him think differently about his life. Since then Jonny has built a recovery, and his ‘FoundMike’ campaign has become an inspiration to many other people worldwide. If you missed it, you can view the programme here.
It’s such an uplifting story with so many messages we can draw on, but for me the key one is the importance of building trusting relationships. The relationships workers form with service users are the everyday way in which people can be helped in promoting recovery, and achieving potential, by being able to talk to somebody, to think differently about their life, and gain hope and insight. Not everyone will find a ‘Mike’ every day, but by building in a key worker system into your way of co-ordinating care for people in a care home or domiciliary care setting, then trusting working relationships can be part of people’s recovery process. Some settings use different terminology, such as named worker, but essentially we are talking about the worker that the service user will be able to relate to throughout the process of planning and delivering their care.
So what are some of the important issues for a key worker?
- That the purpose of the role, as it says in the QCS Key Worker Policy is about promoting independence and dignity, so ensure this is a collaborative venture, with worker and service user working together.
- The key worker is not going to be there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so be aware that trusting relationships aren’t exclusive ones, the service user needs to be able to relate to other staff.
- That being able to talk is important (see the Jonny story again) and the QCS key worker policy identifies the need for at least weekly one-to-one communication.
- That trusting relationships are important. There’s some research that says one of the most important factors in improving outcomes for service users , is the worker’s relationship with the client