Children & Young People Opinion

Invest in success: top tips for social care best practice

Pauline Paterson Director Of Regulation and Quality at Keys Group

We all know the importance of going the extra mile to ensure that we are delivering exceptional care but how can social care providers make sure that they are always improving? In my experience, positive transformation starts from the top, and in this article, I will share some of my top tips for social care best practice.  


Social care will always throw challenges into the path of those involved in delivering it. At Keys Group, we want to learn from those challenges and ensure that we can always identify how we can improve our practice based on these learnings. We always welcome and consider the feedback we receive from the children and young people we support, as well as from their families and carers. However, it is important not just to listen, but also to show that we are responding and developing practice as a result of what we hear. Transparency is the foundation of effective learning and ensures both accountability and responsibility to those we support and to each other.  Our first annual quality report is a significant step in publicly demonstrating our commitment to transparency and to learning and developing at every opportunity.

I would encourage all social care providers, from board to floor, to ensure there is room for reflection in their day-to-day operations, as well as a willingness for everyone to share and collaborate on how procedures, behaviours and habits can be improved or adapted.

 Leadership and people

Social care is all about people, so it is crucial that providers identify best practice for recruitment and retention and develop excellent leaders. At Keys Group, we have seen success in both areas in the past two years – and I believe this is because we have invested in our staff and developed our leadership talent. For example, we established the Keys Academy which provides training and development to everyone at Keys Group, and helps our staff gain not only vocational qualifications but also to develop their management and leadership skills.

Training is so important, not just to maintain high standards, consistency and continuously improve, but also to create a workforce that feels valued and invested in. Internal training programmes also allow all the work you do to be underpinned by values, such as our EPIC values of Excellence, Passion, Integrity and Caring. To create a motivated workforce, you must first make sure staff know and internalise the values they should be living out every day.

In-house specialist expertise

In-house specialist support can be invaluable in bolstering the services that your business provides. Hiring individuals who have knowledge and experience in very specific areas who can use that experience to improve the quality of care adds significant value to the work we do. This kind of support is something we strongly value at Keys Group, and highly recommend.

In July 2016, we hired Steve Challinor, a retired police officer, as our Police Liaison Specialist Advisor to help the Keys team engage and work more collaboratively and proactively to address problems that may arise  between local police forces and Keys Group services. His work supported a forty percent reduction in  police interventions in Keys Group residential services from March 2018 to March 2019.   An increased understanding and co-operation between our services and police forces has also undoubtedly improved the quality of life of our young residents.

So, what can we learn from this? The most important takeaway is that best practice in social care should always be led by expertise. Specialists – whether they be in addiction, trauma or, like Steve, in police relations – can deploy their experience for the benefit of those in care. What’s more, if they are in house, these specialists can build thriving relationships with the looked after young people, as well as the staff and management.

Social care is all about improving lives and helping people, and we are always striving to maximise the quality of our care and education to fulfil our vision – Inspiring and supporting young people to live happy, healthy and successful lives. I hope these insights into the Keys Group will allow other providers to consider their current practice, and encourage them to ask: how can we do the best for the people we serve?




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Edel Harris





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