Learn News Opinion

Supporting personal relationships in care homes

Jim Thomas Programme Head Workforce Innovation Skills for Care

Jim Thomas, Programme Head with Skills for Care, has been working with adult social care employers to explore how they can better support people who need care and support to have meaningful personal relationships. Together they developed guidance to help organisations think about what their workers need to know and understand about personal relationships, and how they can create a workforce development programme.

As we strive to deliver person-centred care, we need to encourage more care workers to have open and honest conversations about personal relationships, so they can deliver care and support that’s focused around the individual.

What surprised me the most throughout this work was how much knowledge seemed to have got lost or muddled up with safeguarding and concerns about mental capacity. It saddened me to see that some people assumed that relationships inherently contained the risk of abuse or would lead to ‘intimate relations,’ rather than being about companionship, closeness love or mutual support.

Sadly we can’t pretend that the personal relationships of people who need care and support aren’t subject to all sorts of different norms that for those of us living outside the care system. However accessing care and support shouldn’t be a reason for someone not to have meaningful personal relationships in their life.

One employer I worked with was Jacqui Ramos, Dementia Lead with St Monica Trust. She wrote an inspiring blog about supporting people with dementia to have personal relationships, and I’d like to share a few quotes that stood out to me. She says:

“People who are living with dementia have the same basic, human need to have relationships with others. This can be as simple as hand holding or facilitating close relatives to play a part in the person’s care needs, if that’s what they wish to do.

It’s important that staff understand that dementia is not a reason to restrict personal relationships. Each situation should be explored individually and on its own merit, so

If you have to make a decision that’s in their ‘best interest’, it needs to enable positive relationships whilst safeguarding the person in the least restrictive way.

At St Monica Trust, our ethos is to promote positive relationships wherever possible. We deliver a one-day dementia training course for all staff – of which ‘maintaining and building relationships’ is an integral part. We discuss personal relationships in team meetings, care reviews and handovers (where appropriate). Staff can come to me, as the dementia lead, if they have any questions. We also work closely with the local Safeguarding and Dementia Wellbeing Service if we need any more support.”

This year Skills for Care has had the pleasure of working with people who need care and support, employers and other professionals to develop guidance to redefine learning and development around personal relationships.

It sets out what values and knowledge workers need, what employers need to know and includes a set of training materials used by the Avenues Group that can be freely adapted by employers for their own use.

The guidance doesn’t claim to be extensive or perfect, but it’s a way to reset how we consider workforce issues around personal relationships.

If, as social care employers, we’re not enabling our workforce to have open and honest conversations with each other, people they support and their families about personal relationships, then we’re holding people back in a very important of their lives.

Yes relationships may include risk, safeguarding issues, preferences that surprise us or tricky issues of mental capacity. However for many of us it’s only through meaningful relationships that we can experience the kindness, passion, challenge, companionship, rewards, connection, joy, fun, disappointment that most people find makes life worth living.

Who are we as people supporting others to deny those experiences to anyone?


Download the guidance from www.skillsforcare.org.uk/personalrelationships.



Edel Harris





Dementia Ad





Email Newsletter