Doing Care Differently

This post is a round-up of three items of information published in the news late last year which provide case studies of ‘doing care differently’. It is helpful to look at these in the context of child protection because they show us examples of how existing child protection systems can be changed, opened, and re-worked to be made more compassionate and effective.

Police and Mental Health Workers in Ipswich, Queensland

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In Ipswich, a programme has been launched that sees police working with mental health nurses in the response to emergency suicide calls.

Before the programme was launched, police would respond to triple 0 calls by taking the caller to hospital, sometimes in handcuffs. The police officer responsible would sit with the person until they were assessed. This process was stressful for the person concerned, and also time-consuming for the police officer, who would not leave the caller until they had been seen.

Now, when emergency services receive a call related to mental health, the police responding pick up a nurse from Ipswich Hospital. Another team is sent more quickly to ensure the scene is safe, and so paramedics can check there is no imminent medical threat. When the nurse arrives they take over, so that the first responding team of police and the paramedics can move on to take other jobs. From there, the nurse sits down and has a chat with the caller. This chat is intended to be open and non-confrontational, but also enables the nurse to assess the caller’s mental health.

The new procedure means that, rather than being taken to a stressful and unfamiliar location, people who are vulnerable can stay in their own homes. Ninety per cent of people seen by the nurses so far have been treated at home, which lessens the burdens on hospitals. This work is particularly important as calls related to mental health have increased in the area.

Seargeant Leon Margetts, who is involved in the scheme, has said that the scheme has enabled a ‘flow-on effect’ and transfer of knowledge from the mental health nurses to the police officer, calling it ‘on the job training’ for being ‘better at dealing with mental health situations’.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles has voiced support for an expanded programme.

Janet Brack, one of the nurses involved in the scheme, says of the scheme ‘I genuinely believe this program has made a bigger difference in the community than anything I have seen over my 30 years in mental health’.

Over a third of the mental health calls received related to young people.  This is an example of an important new initiative that is helping to provide care in a more compassionate way.

Read the full story at ABC News.

Yackandandah Health, Victoria

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Yackanandah Health, which opened in late 2018, is an intergenerational home that manages care for older people differently. The two-wing building has 16 residential aged care rooms upstairs, and 10 apartments for people of any ages downstairs.

The model is intended to combat the existing common method of providing aged care, which segregates residents into purpose-built buidings. It is hoped that the Yackanandah Model will keep aged care residents integrated within the community.

Yackanandah Health Chief Executive Annette Nuck distinguished the new centre from existing models, pointing out that care facilities are often managed as hospitals. ‘Being old is not an illness, so we’re not treating it as one’, she said. ‘[We are] throwing the medical model out the window.’

A childcare centre attached to the aged care home opened in January 2019. Further, there are plans to also open a care sanctuary which will connect people to animals and the land. These initiatives are intended to promote a whole of community approach to care, where services for older and younger people do not take place in isolation from the rest of the community.

Nuck said: ‘We don't like the model that's widely replicated in Australia where you basically lock people up separate from the rest of the community after they get to a certain age.’

At Yackandandah the intent is that residents feel independent, and like they are not in a care facility but a home. This approach includes adapting to the individual needs of the resident, and not lumping residents into regularised timetables, routines or schedules. Although the residents’ rooms have services for nurses, such as wash basins, these features are discretely hidden to lessen the impression that the building is an institution.

The building was also developed along sustainability principles, and aims to be totally renewable by 2022.

Keeping people of all ages within the same community works to the benefit of all participants while simultaneously enriching the community as a whole.

For more information, see ABC News.

National and Adult Services conference, Manchester, UK

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Last year, Julia Stansfield, the Chief Executive of UK charity In Control, spoke about a social care initiative that took place in Manchester. The National Children and Adult Service Conference, which is a forum for those interested in social care to gather, network and share best practice, for the first time ran in parallel with a major fringe event run by voluntary network #socialforcare.

The coupling of the two initiatives, Stansfield said, was necessary because of the sector-wide cuts, but also to helped imagine a viable, inclusive, prosperous and compassionate future for the sector. #socialforcare gathers and publishes ideas on better ways to do social care. It aims to change the conversation, encourage discussion, and provide a platform for the sharing of voices, as well as being more directly linked to communities.

Stansfield says that there is enthusiasm within the country for change: what she termed a ‘coalition of the willing’. This signifies local places where statutory organisations and communities are moving beyond the traditional roles mandated out for them by government infrastructure to build serious partnerships, where they are starting to ‘see real results’. She emphasises that the best ideas sometimes come from the margins and also the importance of reducing bureaucracy.

This is a useful idea that could be brought forward into the child protection space.

You can read Stansfield’s opinion piece in The Guardian.

See, also, the websites of Social Care Future and the National Children and Adult Service Conference (which this year will be held in Bournemouth).

The charity Julia Stansfield heads, In Control, works with partners to deliver better social inclusion outcomes.

Images via Unsplash.