So, I am writing from work, an admission which is less an indication of my own laziness and more to do with the fact that my manager isn’t in the office and there is absolutely nothing I can do right now. There are only so many times you can ask your co–workers if there’s anything they need help with before your offers of assistance become more of an annoyance than a help. I have read through the company policies and procedures so many times I’m sure I could recite certain sections of them out-loud, and past that there isn’t too much more I can absorb myself in.
Moreover, more than one colleague has told me to take a half hour for myself if there’s not much to do. His exact words were “be confident- when there’s isn’t much to do- do your own thing!” I don’t know if this sentiment exactly fits into my own impression of work time activity, but hey- I’m going to take half an hour and write, I don’t think anybody is going to notice.
This morning was really good, as I had lots of work to do and spent most of it on the phone trying to track down a client who has gone AWOL. I called social services, the local mental health team, a hospital in the next borough, and spoke to a member of the temporary accommodation department at the council. These were all ‘first time calls’ for me, and so were really interesting as each different person gave me advice relating to their specific remit and area of knowledge and expertise.
I know that as I get better at this job, I will start to develop a greater understanding of which bodies have a particular information on clients which will help me resolve whatever problem I am working on. At the moment I have basic knowledge, and quite generalised understanding, but as I work through more cases with individualised circumstances I think I will develop my problem solving abilities and strategies. This is exciting, because usually peoples situations are quite complicated, and so require input from many different services and organisations. Being competent enough to know where to start, and know how to approach a problem is going to be a good feeling.
I’ve been here 2 and half weeks so far, and am slowly building the confidence to make judgement calls myself, and to use my own initiative to start tackling issues surrounding clients, rather than always checking with my boss or other colleagues before doing anything. I have only been given six clients to work with so far; not very many considering that other support workers have 15 and upwards. But this is fine and completely what I was expecting- I have only just started, and my boss told me that she would ease me in slowly.
I have also been given clients with low level needs, rather than the complex cases or clients with high needs and chaotic situations. Some of the people we work with have such complicated backgrounds and needs, and issues and circumstances that can be horrendously difficult to navigate and work through. It is when you start working with clients who have histories of offending, and/or serious addictions and low levels of personal support or capacity to help themselves that you really need to know your stuff.
Doing this job means being able to balance the sometimes conflicting pressures of “duty of care” for clients, but also protecting clients rights to make their own decisions. If we work with a client who is an alcoholic, and risks losing their tenancy if they are found to be drinking whilst on premises again, and they inform us during a visit that they are going out to buy a bottle of vodka and a 6-pack of beer we cannot prevent them from doing that. Clients have the right to make their own decisions, and they have the prerogative to make mistakes, as long as they don’t break the law or put other persons at harm. This can be extremely frustrating but is ultimately the right way of doing things- we are not there to tell people what to do, but to support them in the areas they need support it. We try to help; we don’t instruct or dictate.
I haven’t had any direct contact with the clients I will be working with yet; my first meeting is on Wednesday, and then I have one on Thursday and on Friday. I’m really looking forward to this! I have to update three out of my six clients support plans, which will take a while but be great because I’ll get to know each clients specific circumstances, and get a greater idea of what issues they have that I’ll be able to help out with.
It’s all going really well so far; and now I should probably get back to it. A half hour break is ok at this stage, but I have a client to locate!