Enhancing relationships between families and providers

By sharing her one-page profile with her brother’s support provider, Liz is able to concentrate on being a sister not a carer.  An example of how one-page profiles can improve communication and enhance relationships between families and providers.

Written by Liz Wilson

liz and tommyI am passionate about person-centred ways of working which I have used in my professional and personal life for over a decade now.  My brother and daughter both have Downs Syndrome.  Sarah Jane has grown up with the values of inclusion and person-centred thinking.  Tommy has had a very different life but a move to supported living last year has opened up his world.

About six months ago a new service provider took over Tommy’s contract.  I had been very engaged with the previous provider and began to feel quite cut out of his daily life.  I work full time and can rarely answer a call during typical working hours.  I found it very frustrating to have ‘missed calls’ with no messages or indication of urgency and worried that staff would think I didn’t care.  I am a Family Consultant at a social care provider, Dimensions, where staff share their one-page profiles with families. Working there and seeing the benefit, I realised how valuable it would be for families to share one-page profiles too.  We started doing this within Dimensions and I took the idea to my brother’s provider.  I wanted communication to be constructive and effective, and for people to value my involvement.

I sat down one evening and created a one-page profile for ‘partnership working and fluid communication.’ The profile is about supporting family relationships so I included things that build connections.

To begin with I shared the one-page profile at a review meeting and staff really appreciated knowing a bit more about me and my busy lifestyle.  I gave a copy to the regional manager as well.  I can easily tell the members of staff who have seen and read the profile and those who haven’t.  I keep a copy on the notice board by my desk at home and I jot down the new things I learn.  I plan to give an updated and visually different copy to the team every six months.  I’m going to stick the next one inside Tommy’s wardrobe door as a daily reminder for staff.

Sarah Jane and Tommy often have conflicting needs so a member of staff always supports our time together.  Support staff don’t often co-work with family members and many were uncomfortable with hanging out at home or on family trips.  Now we have a delightful balance of professionalism and friendliness which is much more relaxing.  Niece and uncle have strengthened their relationship because their conflict of interests has been minimised and I can be mum and sister not mediator!

I have high expectations about the quality of support and communication between families and services, and quite rightly so.  However, having my values and needs expressed on a one-page profile enables me to clarify my expectations. When people know what I want and expect they are more likely to give it – and if I haven’t been clear I can change the profile instead of getting frustrated and coming across as a nag.  I now get text messages that are much easier to respond to in a quick break, and voicemail helps me sort the rare urgent issues from those that can wait a day or two.  It is really lovely that Tommy now initiates visits with support from staff and I get good news, not just issues to deal with. When I make suggestions about ways of working or activities to try they are taken as offerings from a partner.  Tommy is more relaxed when we are all together.  He doesn’t use verbal communication but he picks up on tension so I can tell he appreciates the new relationships as much as I do.

Since sharing the one-page profile with the people who support Tommy daily I feel like things are more straightforward.  I would strongly recommend it as a way of enhancing the relationships between families and providers. I love that my views are being sought on things that are important to Tommy.  My role has undergone a transformation too, I feel like I can be a more ordinary sister alongside managing his personal budget and finances.

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