31st July 2016

Sporting Success for Wales and Lessons for the Care Sector?

With the Rio Olympics upon us, my mind has been turning to lessons that Sport can share with those of us working in the Social Care sector. So over the next month or so I will be writing upon sporting themes as they relate to care settings. Some parallels are obvious - striving to overcome difficulties, competing against the odds, seeking to fulfill one's potential. But what other lessons might there be in the example of our sports stars?

Recently the outstanding success of the Wales football team (motto 'Stronger Together) has had a dramatic impact in Wales. The sense of pride, teamwork and sheer feel good factor, engendered by their success has translated directly into a strong sense of national pride. Whilst the Welsh football team were underdogs, they galvanized themselves into an effective unit which played beyond the expectations of spectators and pundits. In a word they have boosted 'morale' and added to what it means to be Welsh.

The Recovery Model

Let us consider that people in all settings need good morale to thrive and prosper and this may be truest for those who have the greatest difficulty within their day to day existence.

“Morale and attitude are fundamentals to success.” Bud Wilkinson, (American Football Coach).

So if we consider clients' needs, good morale is necessary to translate good care intentions into lived experience. Many of those same clients will be used to experiences which are debilitating and demoralising and also which deny them realistic choices in their life. Not the greatest background to provide good morale. Against that background good support and care will counter these experiences and begin to offer attractive care packages which offer choice and which respect the clients values. One model which embodies this approach is the 'recovery' model, an approach which looks to build on strengths and resilience rather than just addressing deficits and needs.

So lets take a look at some of the attributes of  the Recovery model.

  • Team working – like the football team, the recovery model envisages effective team working to unlock individual potential. Each service, professional or other individual involved in the support package has a clearly identified role to play.
  • Co production – the service user is the 'captain' of the team and considered to be the expert when it comes to their life and their choices. Service user led support is what is referred to in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, 2014 as co-production. This promotes the role of the service user from passive participant to active planner and producer of their own support. After all, it is their life to which the support package seeks to add meaning.
  • Hope – is an essential ingredient for lives with meaning and purpose, and the recovery model recognises this by seeking to build on skills, attributes and interests, as this positive approach is inherently more motivational than one which targets needs identified by experts.
  • Examples of success and 'role models' – the recovery model recognises the inherently social nature of people and seeks to provide a social milieu within which the service user can bloom and prosper.

Reservoir of Individuality

What the recovery model recognises, that can sometimes be lost in the morass of assessments, plans and reviews integral to social care and support – is the essential humanity of each individual. If support is to be successful it needs to tap into this reservoir of individuality for each person. Although this seems self-evident, historically care has failed to deliver person-centred care having been bound up for too long in a model which accentuates the limits of service providers rather than considering what individuals actually need and are asking for.

Similarly it acknowledges that recovery is not the same as return to a previous level or 'ideal' level of functioning. New baselines of functioning are required based upon the optimal 'current' level of functioning available to the individual in their new, or present, circumstances. This also envisages that new possibilities and new goals, not a rehash of old goals are critical to the success of a support package.

The Impact of Stress

But what does this mean in practice? One aspect often affected by mental disorder, for example, is the ability of the individual to tolerate stress. Oftentimes anxiety, depression or serious forms of mental illness will result in a reduction in the ability to cope with situations which they find stressful. This may mean that they are unable to, or need support and adjustments to return to previous roles and occupations.  However, focusing upon what has been lost maybe to miss the point. In avoiding stress the individual may become a better and more effective problem-solver. Better able to recognise stress, better able to acknowledge current potential, better able to identify more adaptive possibilities. It is surely these new attributes which are at the heart of the recovery model.

Working Hard

Let us consider again the lessons from the Welsh football team. They weren't able to replicate the majestic flowing football of the Spanish, the last minute ruthlessness of the Portuguese, or the well drilled effectiveness associated with the German team, but to emphasise what they couldn't do would be similar to the old model of care, emphasising needs and deficits.  What they could do was form a unit more effective than the sum of its parts. Where team spirit, endeavour and a work ethic second to none produced a team that was competitive and successful.

Chris Coleman the Wales team manager, said that it was important to keep dreaming, whilst also working hard to make the dream real. This seems important in all walks of life if people are to feel fulfilled and none more so than in the care sector. Too often, service users have been denied an opportunity to dream and strive for what would be fulfilling for them.

Next week I am going to explore some of the attributes of motivation. Another ingredient important to the sporting and care worlds.

 

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Nic Bowler

Welsh Care and Social Services Inspectorate Specialist

Dr Nicholas Bowler is a researcher and consultant to government-level [Welsh Government Review of Secure Services, 2009] – specialising in QA/compliance focused projects. He has interests in clinically relevant training, service development and research. He enjoys working with clients to support them in identifying problems and initiating projects to improve practice.

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