Podcast Episode: Relationships Matter
Category: Young people
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
GR - Gayle Rice
GR Relationships Matter is a project run by Iriss, and we wanted to look specifically at difficulties that workers from a range of different services experience in terms of keeping in contact with young people who are leaving care.
We have read in the literature and we have spoken to workers and young people have brought it up, time and time again, that there’s a lot of difficulties maintaining relationships that they would like to continue as they transition and become inter-dependent and are moving in and out of different communities. So what we want to do is identify the kind of barriers that workers find challenging and consider ways that we can try and address those together.
So the idea for the project came about from lots of different sources, so some of it was from the literature, so we read about lots of things that workers find difficult, for example there’s no safety mechanism if relationships continue outside of service context, or they’re not sure about their role or the boundaries of their role in the relationship if it continues after they have provided the service that they were employed to do so. But then we have also heard from young people too, who have said they had really good relationships with people and they completely vanished, or they just stopped and their desire, both from workers and from young people to continue those relationships, but feeling that something in the system or something to do with service processes is preventing that.
For example when we were doing a little bit of research into what this project may be and how we could shape it, we spoke to workers who said they experience barriers continuing the relationship with young people, for example, one worker told me about a young person, a young man that she had been working with, and while she had been working with him he had moved into secure accommodation and they hadn’t been able to see one another as much as they wanted to, and when she moved from her job to work in a different children’s unit, she wasn’t able to continue to write letters to that young man, although she wanted to. And so there’s something around the boundaries that workers are facing and the barriers that they are facing to just continue that contact. The workers I spoke to said that they see them as really quite challenging barriers to address, but ultimately that contact is exceptionally important for people to continue.
Also, in discussion with one young person around this particular topic, she told me that although she had moved on from care, she found it difficult to keep in contact with the worker that she’d had the best relationship with when she was in a children’s unit, and the kind of things that they would like to do together is go to the cinema on a Saturday or wander round the shops and go for a coffee, but because that’s not within 9 to 5 hours or regular working hours, and because it’s not generally considered the type of service provision that worker would normally do, it’s very difficult for them to arrange that. So there is a desire from both people, but there’s too many barriers for them to feel that it’s possible.
One young person that I spoke to who was really keen on the topic of this project, and wants to maintain a relationship with the worker that she is finding it difficult to do so, because she’s moved on from care, also provided the other side of the story, where there are risks associated with continuing relationships outside of professional boundaries, and that those need to be managed, so the way she presented it was we need to start to bend the rules, so that the rules fit individuals and their relationships, so nothing needs to be broken and what we already have can work quite well, but what we need to do, she suggested, was make sure it’s personalised for people and their relationships.
Hearing these kinds of stories from people really has made us focus Relationship Matters, upon workers, upon young people, upon the barriers that they experience. Our aim is to be able to develop ideas so that workers on the project and those who look at the website are able to take those ideas into practice and make sure that the relationships they want to continue can be realised. There’s a few objectives to this project, the first is to set up a website where lots of evidence can be viewed about what supports and enables workers continue relationships with young people, that evidence might be literature reviews which are summarised, or it might be examples of services which are successfully being able to provide that kind of care and support, and it also includes stories and snippets of just personal perspectives and points of view, but we’d really like people to contribute to that evidence so we can actually build up a really good breadth of knowledge about the kinds of things that help people. The second objective is for Iriss to hold a jam, and a jam is just an opportunity for lots of people to get together, and at the jam, we would like groups of people to come together with the barrier that they experience at work that they would like to challenge, that prevents them continuing relationships with young people as they leave care. So we would like people to submit that barrier to us. After that, we are asking people who attend the jam to go back to their locality and see how feasible it is to implement, and those that would like support in implementing that idea, we may be able to support in some way. And we’d like the teams of people to involve workers and young people, and just generally anybody that’s actually interested in tackling this.
So ways that we might support the ideas from the jam could be in various ways actually, some of it might be through funding if things are actually need to be bought or created or made to support that, alternatively, it might be through evidence that can support leadership or power, try different things. It might just simply be connecting people up who have done stuff before in the way that people would like to challenge, a whole host of variety of ways. But ultimately it will really depend on the ideas and what the people from that location say they need, and we will do our very best to support that in some way.
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