Specialist Worker Training: What’s It All About?

Once we’ve put a programme in place for one of the people we support, that’s not the end of the story. People change, and circumstances change, so we’re continually monitoring our programmes to see what’s working well and what isn’t working so well.

We do a lot of observation to find out what our service users like and dislike, using photographs and objects to help them reflect on their experiences. And, where possible, we ask the person in question, too.

So how do the specialist workers and the people they support benefit?

The idea is that the specialist workers can decide what are the essential and best ways to review support plans by using recordings and behaviour data, by talking to colleagues – but also by looking at how the information is presented and to whom.

So far, Liaise’s specialist workers have had four sessions this year. Participation has been great, and everyone has worked very hard.

Participants have been analysing all the steps they need to review any and all aspects of a service user’s care and support plan. This might sound straightforward, but it actually covers the person’s whole life and lifestyle – including their health and wellbeing, goals and achievements, and the skills and positive behaviours they’re learning to replace challenging behaviours.

The specialist worker group identified that one of the most important elements of an effective review is involving the wider support team. Everyone evaluates what has worked and what hasn’t worked so well for each individual.

Direct support co-workers often know the individuals they support extremely well so they can be fantastic advocates when individuals need help expressing their views and wishes.

Everyone also agreed that involving the service user in reviewing their own support plan is also crucial, and should be the starting point in any evaluation. Sometimes the people we support can tell us what they like and don’t like about their lives when someone they trust asks them.

However, not everyone has speech or other ways of communicating, so they might need lots of help to understand what they’re being asked. This means we need to come up with more imaginative ways to get service users involved.

Specialist workers in the group have shared the different ways they’ve helped the people they support to express themselves. Here are just a few of those methods:

  • Creating a book of ‘things I like’ and choosing photographs of favourite activities, people and places.
  • Choosing which staff member they want to work with.
  • Keeping a daily diary by choosing a photo of an activity or experience they enjoyed that day.

In this way, we can make sure that everyone we support is getting what they need when they need it.

Practice Leadership Project

Liaise is also taking part in the Practice Leadership Project with Roy Deveau, assistant research fellow at the Tizzard Centre, University of Kent. The specialist worker training is a great place to discuss the strategies each home will focus on as part of this project.

It’s a great opportunity to work on teaching skills to service users and staff alike – and the project has begun in earnest.

Roy is coming back to Liaise in October to see how we’ve been getting on. We’ll report back then!