Family leader, Debs Apsland, explores how true co-production requires great teamwork.
One of the main aims of the original Green Paper (for what is now the Children and Families Act), was for families and practitioners to work together for the benefit of our children and young people.
So why is this not happening more?
For many years there has been a “them and us” type relationship between families and practitioners. Although, as parents, we know there are some amazing practitioners out there; sadly there are all too many who are used to working in a certain way and the thought of working in a true partnership with families scares them senseless. It feels like a power struggle rather than a team. There is also the imbalance of power in a room, often families may be the only person in the room without a budget or a salary.
So how do we make it work?
In order for a team to work, there has to be trust.
A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other. – Simon Sinek
Trust is not something that people develop overnight. You have to work hard to gain trust. Families are let down by the system, not the people working in it and we become drained by it all. Our trust levels for practitioners can be exceptionally limited and the team collapses, often before it even begins.
So why does the team fail when trust is not involved?
Without trust people don’t always believe the people in the team genuinely want to help. They feel the need to protect themselves and to tread carefully around the others. After years of feeling as if they are not being listened to, families sometimes avoid the debates and conflicts and therefore their views are not heard.
If a parent or family haven’t felt involved or participated in any of the decisions, then they feel no ownership. This leads to a lack of engagement from the family.
So how do practitioners gain trust from families?
Show up. Be there when you say you will. If you can’t make it or you are going to be late, let us know. Our time is valuable too.
Be present. There is nothing worse than sitting with a practitioner when you know they are not really focussed on what you are trying to say. Remember, we may be your 4th or 5th appointment that day but we may have waited months, even years, to see you.
Don’t have a meeting without everyone walking away with some action points. It is so frustrating for everyone concerned if we sit in a meeting and at the end walk away and think “well that was a waste of time”. If you all leave with some action points, it always feels as if the meeting was much more worthwhile.
Do what you say you will do. If you promise to make a referral, make a call, find out a piece of information, etc., then as Nike says Just Do It.
Be honest. If something you thought you could do for us turns out to be something you can’t do, then tell us. In the same vein, don’t tell us something if you are not sure. We don’t expect you to be a walking encyclopaedia but we do expect you to be honest. Tell us if you don’t know, don’t try to blag your way through.
Don’t make us chase you constantly. Just think how much more time you would have if you didn’t have to take calls from families chasing up something you promised to do for them.
Treat us all as individuals.
How do families gain trust from practitioners?
Over to the practitioners. As a parent, I know there are times when I don’t practise what I preach. So tell us, what makes you want to work with a family?