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What I am known for!

February 2, 2015 @ 7:30 am

“You’re the trainer who insists we take a lunch break”. I was delighted to be greeted by this in the introduction to one of my recent courses. Yes I hope I am known as the trainer who insists on self care. My passion is quality of services available to those who need them and equally passionately I believe that having a workforce that values and cares about itself  is an essential ingredient for good quality services and compassionate care.

When I qualified 25 years ago that was enshrined in the practices of social work.  Sadly it’s no longer the case. There seem to be expectations that everyone works longer than their contracted hours unless you leave to continue looking after others; children and vulnerable adults. The boundaries around training and leave were kept. Other people managed your absence rather than contacting you and expecting you to respond when you were out of the office.

It seems as if the priority for action has become the system rather than those expecting a service whether that’s a child, vulnerable adult or family member. Casualties in the process also have been the children of the workforce who come very low down organisational priorities and the workforce in terms of their own personal and professional development. Recognising limits to capacity or asserting the needs of others that workers have responsibilities to are seen as weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

No wonder we’re a long way from being able to provide compassionate care to the most vulnerable in our society.

These patterns occur in many professions. Long hours and devotion to work are seen as essential criteria. Rather than living balanced and compassionate lives connected to families, friends and our communities. As we examine how the wealthy live perhaps these values are coming under scrutiny.

So I am pleased that I can unite with other Renew You trainers to buck this trend and offer women safe, nurturing spaces to develop their potential. It is a prerequisite of my Renew You course that lunch,  as well as the time to eat it in, is provided.

 

Space

January 26, 2015 @ 12:00 pm

Recently I’ve been reflecting on space. How do we conceptualise space? Boundaries around space and spaces have been gradually eroded; the office is shared and usually there will not be enough desks for every worker. This is a deliberate policy.The idea that we use space to symbolise our identity and make our desks our safe working base has been removed from many workplaces. Space in which professionals see people has become a premium; patients are left on trolleys in corridors in hospitals; offices no longer have interview or play spaces for children and their families. The idea of neutral space in which to perform professional tasks is being gradually lost. Schools struggle to find spaces to offer parents or professionals meetings or have smaller groups of children. Training spaces have gone and been replaced with multi-functional rooms in which children and families may have contact as well as professional meetings being held including supervision. All of these bookable functions mean that there is never quite enough space for the people requiring it and the different functions of the task are not so easily accommodated. A room suitable for families to have contact in is not performing the same function as a meeting room or a training room or even a safe space for supervision. It also means everything has to be planned and booked in advance. Yet we know that in health, education and social care there is a need to be prepared for and responsive to the unexpected. Not having space to deal with the sudden disruptions that arise is problematic and causes additional and unnecessary stress.

Physical space has a price tag attached. There is little public acknowledgement about the need for emotional space that also encompasses physical space sometimes. Robin Murray, a leading psychiatrist once passed a comment during exploration of his life scientific (Radio 4) that has stayed with me, that if the housing situation was better in cities there would be a much lower rate of schizophrenia. Our mental health is improved when we have sufficient physical and emotional space. At a time when empty houses in London are increasingly under scrutiny is it time to ask questions about space and how it is used? Who has access to space and what is a fair distribution of space; according to need rather than only according to income?

Two observations have struck me in the last week; firstly the bafflement of a manager of a home saying we only have 4 beds why do I keep being asked to fill them with 5 bodies. To her the beds are peopled, to the commissioners they are commodities. This is a central paradox is space personal or is it merely a commodity. Secondly observing that the car parks of public buildings are full before 8.30 so people can get a parking space and have first option on the limited number of desks. Latecomers to training days explain that having travelled miles to unfamiliar venues they then struggle to get parked. It has become impossible to cater for everyone. Survival of the fittest indeed. Another experience of a similar phenomenon is trying to get onto the M3 from the M25. One of the downsides of life as a trainer is frequent travel. Currently there are roadworks at the junction for the M3 from either side of the M25. On one occasion it took me 2 hours to negotiate the last mile to the turn off. Essentially this is a space issue; too many cars wanting to use the same space at the same time. Of course there are solutions such as queue jumping and not being saintly I am sure I’ll be tempted to do that. However as with all forms of queue jumping some will pay more of a cost than others. Who is getting queue jumped over in our rush to space? Certainly those with caring responsibilities are not in a position to get into the office before 7.30 to offset the anxiety of space – parking/desk.

Space and access to it has become a major stressor in the way we live today.The extent to which we have control over the space, we individually feel we need, to live and work in really affects our sense of emotional well-being.

Gobbled up by the machine

January 12, 2015 @ 4:54 pm

Returning to work as well as the events in France this week have provided space for some thoughts to coalesce around some ideas which I will explore in the next few blog posts.

For me there is a mirroring of events on the global stage and issues arising for social care practitioners. Because of this mirroring, I suspect these issues reach beyond those working in social care and resonate for many of us as we think about the quality of our lives; our dreams and aspirations personally and for future generations.

This post explores the role of computers and modern technologies. To what extent are we gobbled up by machine or in charge and using machines to our advantage? There seem at times to be unstoppable demands and expectations by computers which require us collectively and individually to unplug ourselves from. Taking stock after your first complete week of the New Year who is in charge of the demands on your time – you or are you subject to the expectations of the machines? The computer we thought would ease our lives now rebukes many professionals with lists of unreasonable deadlines which cannot be adjusted to allow for any additional demands being made.

An interesting idea is that there is a behavioural shift occurring about how our use of technology is increasing expectations that everything is available NOW, not just in the public sector but permeating everywhere. This means that those providing services are expected to be accountable at all times. Why didn’t you answer the phone, respond to my text/email/tweet? How quickly is a response permissible and when does not responding change into transmitting a message of forgetting or ignoring the sender. How much can individuals negotiate these expectations and manage them in such a way as to be reasonable?

The resulting question therefore is how do you protect your self from unreasonable demands. Who defines what is reasonable, you, your manager or external agencies? How do you manage your staff realistically about what is achievable, what aspirational (after all we need to have a level to be challenged) and when do you tell your manager that their expectation of what you and your staff can achieve is not in fact the case.

Welcome to Pendrew blog

January 5, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

The Pendrew blog is a way of communicating my thoughts and sharing them with those interested. You’ll see from the other web pages that I am a trainer interested in many aspects of personal and professional development.

Although my background is in social work and training in social and health care, there are parallels with the business world in providing attentive and responsive customer care. Resourcing yourself is an important part of providing compassionate care whether professionally or in personal roles of caring for or parenting others.The blog is a method of sharing my thoughts and ideas around these themes; recognising the importance of valuing yourself can get lost in a busy working life. Training is one way of taking time to reflect on your priorities in your life and whether you are doing the job you wish to, as well as you can.You’ll find details of my public courses on the Renew You page of the website and my contact details are available should you wish to commission bespoke training with me.

Recent Work

My new book Using Supervision in Schools is published. I am very pleased that this collaborative effort with Jo Rowe and colleagues in education settings is now in print and available. Training in supervision is also available through In-Trac Training and Consultancy . Please read on to find out more.

Read more

Delighted that this article, co-authored with a fellow In-Trac Associate, Bridget Rothwell, has just been published. We are keen as trainers to keep a dialogue going between practitioners and academics about how supervision continues to be useful in practice and what supports the conditions to be an effective supervisor. I continue to offer supervision training through In-Trac to supervisors working in children’s services, early years and school settings.

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