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Policies in care
I have been working on several policies this week, and this has led me to think about the purpose and function of policies in a care service. They are very important, and the registration of services cannot go ahead until the registering body is satisfied that the service has policy to cover all areas of care and support. A policy states in short form how it will deal with its duties under the legal, statutory and best practice responsibilities which it has towards all of its stakeholders. For example, a complaints policy allows service users to express concerns and have these addressed about any aspect of care, the whistleblowing policy shows that staff are aware of when and how to take their concerns outside of the service (and when not to!).
I think it is important also to keep policies to the necessary minimum. To be helpful, I think like all formal documents, the policy also needs to be stated in clear, and concise way. This will make it easy to understand and read, where the document is too long-winded, unclear and overly technical, then it is unlikely to be read, understood and fully implemented. Normally procedures related to any given policy will have separate documentation showing the actual practice and procedures which are expected in carrying out the policy.
For example, a complaints policy will have information leaflets for service users to outline what will be done, and forms where the investigations are recorded. These will show what will be done where a complaint arises. Because of this, I believe the policy can be kept short by minimising the details of the procedures involved.
In my previous work area, we supported the service users (young people at that time) to be involved in revising policies. This was highly successful in ongoing work, as it avoided any future issues about how the staff and service users worked together. Ownership of the policies by the young people led to better outcomes. Staff and families or carers are other useful participants in this.
Lastly it is important that, as QCS states, policies are regularly reviewed and kept up to date. This can be done annually or as new developments in practice arise during the year. Local changes, such as partnership working and new areas of work, are examples where change may need to be recorded in policy.
Tony Clarke – QCS Expert Scottish Care Contributor