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Includem Blog: “Relationships Matter”

Keira Anderson, a service designer with Snook has been working with Includem on our transitional support service. Here she writes about a recent event coordinated by theInstitute for Research and Innovation in Social Services – “Relationships Matter”.

Last Thursday Includem (and Snook) took part in IRISS’s Relationships Matter Jam – a one day hack event which brought together 5 organisations from across Scotland to explore ways in which young people can continue to be supported as they move away from child services and care services.

Relationships Matter blog 1

In attendance were representatives from Care Visions, Falkirk Council, Hot Chocolate Trust, Includem and Kibble.

Participants were asked to consider some barriers they face when working with young people and to submit these as part of the application process. The organisations chose to look at the following barriers:

  • Workers feeling judged if they choose to remain in contact with young people when they leave a service
  • Workers not knowing if they are allowed to offer ongoing relational support
  • Getting love right for every young people – what does love look like in a professional context?
  • Understanding and enacting the boundaries of professional and personal relationships
  • Supporting young people to have confidence to continue to seek support when they experience difficulties in life. (Includem)

Facilitators, visualisers and helping hands were provided by IRISS, Young Scot and Who Cares Scotland. Includem were teamed up with Young Scot’s Toni, who partnered with us on several projects in 2014.

When young people exit Includem’s service, they are always reassured that they can still use the Helpline – a service which is available to provide support to young people 24/7.

However, experience shows that in practise, young people are reluctant to do this. Even those who have made good use of the Helpline whilst working with Includem fail to use this service after exit. We wanted to understand why this might be, and how Includem can best support young people beyond their initial service delivery, whilst not imposing on the independence (or interdependence) of the young people in question.

Relationships Matter blog 2We were able to bring together a great pool of Includem brain power on this issue: two young people who have been working with Includem in Fife; sister/brother team Alana and Gavin, their Transitional Support worker Kathleen, frontline Core worker in Glasgow Kim, Briege who has been undertaking PhD research with Transitional Support and myself, Keira, Includem’s embedded service designer from Snook.

Alana and Gavin had helped me look at this issue during the first phase of our project, and took this opportunity to share and discuss their experience of the issue with the wider group.

Fuelled by pastries, tea, coffee and Parma Violets, we delved deeper into what some of the underlying reasons might be that young people are reluctant to pick up the phone at the very moment they need help most.

We were all in agreement that one of the biggest revelations from the day was our rejection of the word “Exit”. The group felt that this word implies a very final action. “You don’t come back in an exit,” as Kathleen put it. We wanted to support young people to lead interdependent lives, without needing Includem by their side, but to truly feel that the door is always open, and to have the confidence and ability to walk back through it.

We wondered if the problem might lie within the method of communication – Alana and Gavin spoke about being reluctant to pick up the phone – “We were too proud to make the call”. In reality, when they found they had hit a bump in the road, and didn’t know where to turn, it was a call from Briege that prompted them to get back in touch with Includem. Briege had phoned to arrange a follow up interview for her research, and on hearing that they were struggling, urged them to make the call. That prompting voice reassured them – Gavin told us he had worried (needlessly of course) about being rejected if they did place the call.

So we explored the idea of Includem making the initial contact – a solution identified by young people during phase 1. We wrote out a series of different communication methods; phone, text, face to face, letter, email, Facebook, Twitter, pigeon and considered the ways in which each could be used and the advantages and disadvantages of each; both with Includem initiating contact, and young people doing so. We identified a range of different ideas which might be explored in the future, but all agreed that a phone call was still the most powerful and overall, the most effective.

Brains and bodies refuelled with soup and sandwiches, we thought about a simple blueprint for the service. What were the potential outcomes and how were we going to get there?

We found it useful to start talking about a young person’s journey with Includem as a literal car journey. At the Includem driving school, young people are given confidence on the roads and the skills needed to navigate on the “highway of life”. They aren’t left to drive alone; Includem ensure they have a good network of support around them, and also reassure them that they can always pull over and give Includem a call if they need an MOT. We started talking about Includem calling a young person, for example, two weeks after “exit”, then two weeks after than, then a month, six months etc. just to check they are still happily and safely driving down the road – or that they aren’t struggling and perhaps needing more support, or even just a small amount of helpline based support. This metaphor really helped us think about the problem in a new way – with young people coming up against potholes, or bumps in the road, traffic lights and roundabouts. The team never quite landed on the correct language we wanted to replace “exit” with, but we talked about “moving on”, “next steps”, “getting your license”, “being certified for the road”, “P-plates”.

To put our idea across, we wrote a short play (staring Gavin Gell and Kathleen Malcolm, coming to the Kings soon), in which we told the story of Gavin’s experience with Includem’s School of Driving – getting to grips with the road, with worker Kathleen supporting him in the passenger seat.

Having explored the barrier with young people and workers prior to the Jam, we relished this opportunity to investigate it further, with a diverse group of minds and perspectives around the table. This gave us the chance to look at some alternative solutions. This resulted in us feeling even more confident in the idea that periodic check-in calls after exit are simultaneously the most supportive, but least intrusive solution. The jam gave us the opportunity to develop the idea to such a stage, that we can easily begin to implement this on a prototyping basis.

At the end of the day, IRISS made a commitment to keeping the conversation going between all of the organisations in attendance. Most were concerned with supporting young people after they exit from care or other support services, and recognising the very real relationships young people build with the workers who care for them. A variety of ideas were generated, which lay within a wide range of feasibility and completion. We look forward to learning how these ideas have grown within each organisation over the coming months.

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