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Working well with families

Jim Thomas, Programme Head, Workforce Innovation, Skills for Care

Adult social care employers need to value the varied roles that families, friends and carers play in the lives of people who need care and support.

Skills for Care worked with individuals, family members and employers to develop a new framework that outlines some of the things that adult social care staff need to know and do, to work effectively with families, friends and carers.

Jim Thomas, Programme Head at Skills for Care, shares some of the guidelines from the framework.

Recognise the importance of family relationships and your role in this

The makeup of every family is different.

When you start supporting someone, identify the significant people in their life, and what skills and experience they can bring. Don’t make assumptions about this – individuals have different perceptions of the role of family members and family members will have different levels of involvement.

Where possible, ask the individual if, and how, they’d like their family to be involved. It might be useful to discuss things like whether they want family members to be involved in their health and wellbeing, social activities, decision-making and care planning.

There might be times when an individual doesn’t want to involve their family, which could be different to what family members want – discuss how this will work in practice and ensure that staff are competent and confident managing these situations.

Establish positive relationships with families, friends and carers

When your service is new to people, getting off to a good start is important.

You could offer to visit or meet new family members to explain the role of your service and understand their needs, worries or issues.

Together, you can discuss how family members want to be involved and agree how you’ll maintain this relationship, for example, how they want you to communicate with them and how often.

If you’re supporting someone in their family home, this is a good time to talk about how you’ll work in their home and what’s important to them about family life. Remember, people live in different ways so don’t impose your own way of living onto them.

Maintain appropriate communication with families

Appropriate communication helps you to maintain positive relationships with families.

There are some simple things that you can do, for example, responding to requests and messages promptly, in a way that works for them.

Sometimes, you might encounter conflict between what an individual and their family wants. The framework outlines some of the ways that you can manage this, for example:

  • agree with individuals what information you’ll share with family members and help them to communicate this
  • explain the importance of choice, involvement and mental capacity assessment to families.

In every conversation, you should ensure that everyone puts the individual at the focus.

Offer support to people who need care and support to maintain and manage family relationships

Maintaining family relationships can have a big impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing, and they might ask you for support.

Support the individual and their family members to spend time together in a way that benefits them – create and maintain opportunities for them to continue, and make sure that your support doesn’t get in the way of these activities.

Find out more

The ‘Working with families, friends and carers: what do adult social care staff need to know and do’ framework sets out some workplace principles about how to work effectively with families.

You can use the framework as a measure of best practice, to help you review your service and identify areas for improvement. It can also help you to design and/or commission learning and development around working with families.

Download the framework at: www.skillsforcare.org.uk/families

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