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Putting people first: why a person-centred approach to care is vital

Holly Irwin, Acting Head of Workforce Transformation, Skills for Care

Holly Irwin, Acting Head of Workforce Transformation , Skills for Care

Holly Irwin, Acting Head of Workforce Transformation at Skills for Care discusses what person-centred care means and why it’s so important.

Person-centred care means putting people at the heart of care and support. The purpose of social care is to support people in living the lives that they choose, and so it makes sense that those people are the ones setting out what that care looks like.

A person-centred approach to care is supporting each person as an individual, and accounting for all elements of what makes them who they are.

This means getting to really know each person that you support on a personal level – what are their experiences, their interests, their opinions, their goals.

While processes and structure are key for care providers, person-centred care means not taking a blanket approach to how everyone is supported. In practice that could mean a care home offering activities tailored to specific hobbies that they know their individual residents have a particular interest in; home care workers supporting people to cook a new recipe using some of their favourite ingredients, or a personal assistant accompanying the person they support to see their favourite actor in their latest cinema release.

Beyond this, person-centred care extends to truly understanding all aspects of an individual’s identity which combine to make them who they are. This could include their age, gender, nationality, race, religion, and sexuality, as well as their current or previous profession, their relationship status, and their familial relationships.

We’re all complex people and our demographics, our relationships and our experiences all contribute to the core of who we are and how we see ourselves. This can also impact on the care and support that we might need or how we want to receive this support.

At Skills for Care, we’ve been working on developing two new resources which support people with their personal relationships and their sexual and gender identities.

Understanding and supporting people with these aspects of their lives is an important part of providing person-centred care.

Our recently published LGBTQ+ learning framework aims to support learning that will develop everyone working across social care to effectively provide care and support to LGBTQ+ people later in life – with an understanding of how their sexual and gender identity will have impacted their experiences through their lives and their current wants and needs.

We’ve also developed guidance and training materials for care workers on how to support people with personal and sexual relationships. Our sexuality and romantic relationships comprise a huge part of who we are and are an important part of most people’s lives.

That’s why care workers need to have the skills and confidence to be able to discuss people personal and sexual relationships, and to be able to support them with this part of their lives as needed.

The positive reception to both these pieces of work from across the sector, plus the many stories we hear each day from care providers about how they’re providing person-centred care show that great work is already being done in making person-centred approaches a priority in how we provide care and support.

We must keep up that momentum and continue to build on learning and discovering new ways that we can put people first in everything that we do.


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