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Protection for All: The Key to Delivering Safe Services
Protecting and safeguarding their welfare whilst encouraging a level of independence is ingrained into the very culture of Homecare.
But we must also offer the same level of protection to our Homecare workers who work each day unsupervised in our communities. When I say ‘unsupervised’ it can have such negative connotations, but that is the reality. The relationship between a Homecare employer and their employees is based majorly on trust and confidence. Even those that sail through their interview and have excellent references and a clear DBS form have the ability to break that trust. There are some ‘bad apples’ in Homecare who have a detrimental impact on the image of Homecare across the nation. But these are few and far between when you consider that during 2011-12 an estimated total of 517,000 adults received homecare through their local authority. On the basis of that statistic, 99% of the workforce is kind caring dedicated individuals who take their important role very seriously.
Whilst no one likes to say it - sometimes - people lie. False allegations are made against Homecare workers. And having a false allegation made against a staff member can have devastating and long term effects to the worker, their family, and other Service Users, particularly if the worker has been suspended from duty.
So how can we ensure we give the same level of protection to our workforce?
One of the most common abuse concerns in the industry is financial. Wherever there is money concerned there is a risk. An example would be if a Service User asks their carer to go to the shop for a loaf of bread- this seems innocuous enough.
But with this scenario there is money changing hands, a potentially risky situation for both Service User and worker.
To protect staff members and Service Users alike, you should always consider your risk assessments. Outcomes of your risk assessment may be a document stored in the Service Users home where staff can record any financial transactions, one is included in the QCS system for you to use. Any money matters can then be clearly recorded and evidenced with receipts, which can be audited by head office through spot checks or a thorough audit once returned to your offices.
But a regular trip for a loaf of bread could be a signifier of much more serious issues. For example, if the Service User has a shopper, they may not be getting enough food in to last a full week which is easily sorted with a quick discussion with the shopper. Or the Service User could be giving less money to the shopper as they are giving money to their grandson... the list of endless possibilities goes on, so some further investigation may be needed to help safeguard the Service User as much as practicable.
Whatever your Local Authorities stance on money handling, you should always have your own procedure and individually risk assess each enquiry in relation to money handling.
I was recently asked by a social worker to include in an existing care plan about money handling. The social worker wanted £70 per week to be left in the house and £10 per day to be taken out and given to the Service User. I had a number of questions as part of my risk assessment process. How did the social worker intend to get the £70? Who was responsible for this and how often? Where would the money be stored in the house? Was a locked safe required? If so, who would be responsible for purchasing that? How many people would have access to the money? Would it be family members or just our Homecare workers? Until these questions were answered I was unable to make an informed decision. Once the care plan is amended, record keeping – as well as auditing- of these financial records is key.
You should ensure your workforce is clear on the boundaries and guidelines to which they work. Induction, training and supervision of staff are critical.
In your Inductions you can introduce all new staff to these guidelines from the very beginning, which will help them adopt the culture of working and conducting themselves in a professional manner at all times.
Training is a key element in workers understanding their role and the expectations - and limitations - placed on them. Safeguarding/prevention of abuse and the importance of Record keeping courses will all help to underpin their existing knowledge and guide workers in their day to day duties.
Remind workers through regular supervision sessions will also help to confirm boundaries and expectations throughout the year. It can be helpful to put potential scenarios to the worker and ask how they would respond or react. By doing so, you can check their level of understanding and ensure they are aware of the potential risks posed to them if they do not comply or act in a way that breaches their Code of conduct and brings the Company into disrepute. If you identify any gaps in their knowledge (or you find some hesitation in answering!) you can rearrange training before it is due so that you are certain each staff member is clear and competent.
When it comes to money handling, I would suggest that you look closely at each individual scenario put to you and thoroughly risk assess the circumstances, and don’t be pressurised into making a decision unless you believe you can complete the task required in a safe and responsible way. You then have a better chance of mitigating the risks posed to your staff as well as your Service Users to as low as possible.
The key to delivering a safe service is by protecting everyone whom you have a duty to - as a Provider and as an Employer.