What do we mean by personal outcomes?
Social worker Tina describes the values behind using an outcomes focused approach in social care
So what do we mean by personal outcomes? Research shows us that people are experts in their
own lives, they are best placed to tell us what's important to them and what gives them
a sense of well-being. But they often need help to do this, particularly when families
are in crisis, and this is generally when we need intervention from us. Personal outcomes
means acknowledging people's strengths and working with the person to an agreed plan
to help them to do the things that matter to them. Others can contribute to this plan,
including the family, carers, community members and professionals. It's about implementing
core values, actively listening, allowing people to tell their story in their way,
without judgement, treating people with respect and being reliable, suspending judgement,
and asking open questions, taking a person-centred approach which allows people to know that
we are listening and that we understand. Asking exploratory questions such as What concerns
you most? What do you notice when things are a bit better? Tell me a bit more about what's
happening. And what could be happening to make you or others less anxious? Helping people
to identify their own strengths, skills, motivation to make change, their concerns, and their
aspirations. The approach limits natural defensiveness and it avoids arguments and confrontation.
It allows people to think about what needs to happen, where they are now and where they
want or need to be. The approach advises against dismissive terms such as "I know best", "I'm
the decision maker", "You must/have to do as I say".
It allows people to take ownership of their own life circumstances,
with professionals moving away from the role of fixer and rescuer towards one of facilitator.
Research tells us that poorly understood problems can result in wrong advice being given,
and wrong choices being made. The aim is to use interlinked
skills, understanding the person's situation holistically.
So why change the way we work?
As mentioned, recent legislation Wales has people and communities at its heart. The Social
Services and Well-being and The Future Generations Act emphasises co-production and involvement,
prevention, early intervention and the role of communities. There is a growing need to
support and enhance community resilience as austerity continues to hit public services
and we need to find sustainable ways to support people. Evidence undertaken by Social Care
Wales has shown that culture needs to change within both communities and public services
in order for us to be able to work together to overcome a culture of dependency. This
starts with genuine partnership-working between families, professionals and communities in
order to make a difference. Building trust and confidence, building resilience in people's
lives and giving them the confidence that things can change. The focus cannot just be
limited to health and social care, there has to be a shared vision with the private and
voluntary organisations as well as education. Evidence from practice tells us how we do
it can be more important that what we do. I recently read a story written by a young
care leaver, Jenny Maloy, in Community Care Magazine. Jenny talks about how the kindness
of Social Workers and carers helped her overcome childhood trauma and build her resilience.
She writes "Social Workers and carers are in the honoured position to create a space
for us to learn what we, as precious children, should receive as acts of kindness". There
were so many acts of kindness that she received, far too many to mention, and that in itself
is an act of kindness. With the complicated life of working with vulnerable children,
the simple things can be overlooked. Resilience is built in many ways, and feeling special
by receiving kindness is one of them. She adds "The conversation often pops into my
head when I felt the loss of those important professionals. The loss was no different to
losing a relative. The cross was no easier to bare. The losses stay with you forever,
and they in part, shape you as an adult. But in my case, through the many acts of kindness
I received, they didn't break me". So how much does this cost? How much does the approach
of taking an outcomes focused practice cost? Nothing, yes. Working in a non-judgmental
way, treating people with respect, being kind, actively listening, being available and reliable,
showing compassion and being empathetic, putting the person in the centre, asking them what
matters to them and exploring their personal outcomes. Zero cost, no charge.