By Eddie Stevens – The Grey Matter Group
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Eddie StevensI recently ran a workshop on assessing competence for a group of new and aspiring shift leaders in a small residential care home. They were a lovely group; dedicated and friendly, they obviously cared about their jobs and the people they support. Like other support workers they had found that in order to further their careers and get a little extra in their pay packet they needed to step on to the management ladder and become shift leaders.

As we started the planned activities I quickly realised that something wasn’t working for them. They explained that it was all too confusing. They were still thinking and acting as support workers. Now, I love a challenge so I started from the top with the group. The session was about assessing competence and preparing for the Care Certificate, so I asked everyone to write down what they thought competence looked like.

As I read out their notes the group chuckled when I got to “Happy smiling residents”. Perhaps they thought it was too simplistic or obvious? I thought it was brilliant! The Care Quality Commission (CQC), through their updated inspection framework and the Short Observation Framework for Inspection are looking for exactly that: competent and compassionate staff who strive to ensure that the vulnerable people they support are as happy and content as possible.

Happiness can be all too fleeting. A brief flicker of a smile during a momentary lapse in pain, or all consuming giggles at the latest facebook post. It is easy to focus on the big laughs, or moments of aggression and sadness. However, we must paint a balanced picture or we risk doing ourselves, the people we support and the staff a disservice. That brief flicker of a smile – the result of weeks of gentle and sensitive interactions to build trust and confidence, a vital indicator of success and outstanding practice – is often missed.

For years we have been told not to document our personal opinions, it is the facts that matter. But the facts don’t tell the whole truth. Dig deeper, look wider and make sure that you are seeing the full picture. A care home manager recently told me that 80% of their inspection by CQC was spent observing and interacting with all members of the staff team and individuals they support, with the remaining 20% looking for evidence to give context and help them understand what had led to these interactions happening in the way they did. How many managers spend 80% of their time outside the office working alongside their staff, mentoring, coaching, managing and monitoring? I wonder if the CQC will see a different picture to the picture seen by the manager?

Throughout my years of working in Social Care I have always been amazed at the overwhelming warmth and compassion of my colleagues. Almost all of the evidence that I generated was for incident reports, ABC charts or daily notes that lacked any real sense of emotional connection. It is this compassion and warmth that we must evidence above all else.

The Grey Matter Group are passionate about providing evidence of competence and safety to practice. We improve lives by making sure that learning translates into #happysmiling. Contact us to find out how.


Happy Smiling People
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