To mark ‘Never Give Up Day’, which took place this month, Barry Price reveals why professional carers embody this day more than any other sector.
What does it truly mean to never give up? It’s very tricky to put it into a few words or even a sentence but it’s easy to recognise the indescribable trait in people. In professional sport, for instance, we hear extraordinary stories of remarkable athletes – particularly those with disabilities – who have overcome insuperable odds to achieve their personal goals. Take the nation’s Paralympians for example. Their astonishing ability to put major setbacks behind them and triumph over adversity is truly inspirational.
But, as great a medium as sport is for producing uplifting tales of athletes performing super-human feats, it’s a very narrow lens in which to view the concept of ‘never giving up’. In the social care sector, however, there are millions of motivating examples of ordinary people demonstrating an unrelenting determination to reach their personal milestones, which are every bit as extraordinary.
Before I began consulting for Quality Compliance Systems (QCS), the leading provider of content, guidance and standards for the social care sector, I supported people with brain injuries and learning disabilities. In doing so, together with the wonderful staff that I worked with, I had the great honour of supporting them to reach their goals and longer-term objectives.
The breakthrough moments didn’t come easily. Many of the gains – ranging from a person with a brain injury re-learning how to make a cup of tea to folding their own clothes – were often small. To people outside the care sector looking in, they might even seem insignificant, but for the service user and the multi-disciplinary team, the improvements were truly remarkable. Why? Well, it wasn’t the task – such as applying toothpaste to a toothbrush that mattered – it was the methodology behind the action and the steely determination shown by the service user to complete it that was truly profound and awe-inspiring. It was also deeply symbolic. Putting toothpaste on a toothbrush was seen as the first step of many in them achieving a wider set of goals.
I also had the privilege of witnessing extraordinary feats of personal rehabilitation, which would rival the travails of any gold medal winning athlete. However, it was the trials and tribulations of one person’s personal journey that stood out. After a tragic accident the service user that I’m thinking was left with quite a severe brain injury. They were told by the medical team assessing them that it was unlikely that they would ever be able to return to the life they once knew.
However, that just made the person even more determined to prove that they could fully regain their independence. Every day they worked with behavioural psychologists, support workers and rehabilitation teams. There were huge challenges, complications and obstacles along the way, but that person never gave up and they eventually fulfilled their dream of living on their own.
What marked this person out from others was their positive, determined and resolute mind-set. It helped them to successfully overcome a raft of challenges including proving to a judge in the Court of Protection that they had the mental capacity to make their own decisions, working with the Local Authority to find suitable accommodation and choosing their own staff to support them to live the life they wanted. In clearing this last hurdle, the person had gone full circle – from service user to facilitator. For everyone involved in supporting them, that was perhaps the most rewarding aspect of their journey.
Staff and QCS policies and procedures
I’ve touched on the invaluable contribution of the multi-disciplinary support teams throughout the article without focusing on them specifically. Now I want to do so. In my experience, it wasn’t just the painstaking work that the psychologists carried out to find the correlations and patterns linking incidents and accidents, or the thousands of hours the speech therapy teams gave up. Instead, it was a collective belief that they could leverage their skillsets and vast experience to change the lives of those they were supporting. They were tenacious and passionate in their approach too and this often enabled service users to reach their goals.
But, it was the support workers who worked with clients on a day-to-day basis that were the glue that bound the service together. They may not have devised the intensive programmes, but they worked alongside each service user to ensure that they met their daily targets. And, much more than that, they offered clients emotional support when times were tough.
Policies, procedures and best practice guidance can play a vital role in supporting and underpinning a rehabilitation programme. I would strongly recommend that providers, who are QCS customers, access the ‘Rehabilitation Policy’ and the ‘Mental Capacity Act Best Interests Policy’. The ‘Consent’ and ‘Behaviours that Challenge’ policies also add great value to a service. From a regulatory standpoint, each policy is regularly updated and QCS’s Care Planning Suite helps staff to quickly and easily tailor polices to service users’ needs.
Community-based environments the best place to be
Compare this outstanding, person-centred and holistic package of care to the faceless assessment treatment units that those with learning disabilities and brain injuries sometimes find themselves living in. Rarely is it in a service user’s best interests to live in an assessment treatment centre longer than necessary. In my opinion, the system must recognise the rights of vulnerable service users. It must do this by empowering people to making value-based decisions that are best for the person. It may be that an outstanding assessment treatment unit, which has an equally outstanding culture of person-centred care is the best option. But, compared to a small service in a community setting, are people in secure hospitals really able to flourish? Not in Dan Scorer’s view. In February, Mr Scorer, who is MENCAP’s Head of Policy, told the Nursing Times that inpatient environments were “remotely therapeutic for people” and “actively damaging”.
If we are to truly respect the dignity of a person, the decision to refer them to an assessment treatment unit should only ever be a last resort. It should never be taken until an experienced multi-disciplinary team has had an opportunity to provide personalised care and support in a community setting.
Indeed, when service users are supported by a person-centred team with unrelenting desire to help them to achieve what they want from life, the personal milestones that can be achieved are nothing short of miraculous.
In my opinion, that’s how the concept of ‘Never Giving Up’ is best encapsulated and embodied.
The article was first published in The Career, Issue #66