Finding People Amongst Bureaucracy by Donya Author: GUEST POST     
Date: 24th November 2016

Charityworks graduate, Donya, joined our 2016 intake.  In her role as a support worker in an organisation providing personalised support and housing to people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs, she describes her experiences with bureaucracy and connecting with others.


Reducing bureaucracy

One of the big challenges I’ve faced so far in this field is balancing paperwork against care-work. There are often times when the people I support want my company or assistance but I’m too busy filling out paperwork like daily logs, emailing about important incidents, accident forms etc. This is concerning considering I am yet to be a key worker and have a delegated person(s) that I care for. Once this happens I will have support plans, risk assessments, health forms and much more to fill out and keep up to date. Obviously, I understand the importance of filling out such forms, not only for legal reasons but to deliver better care but at the same time it makes me feel far removed from the role that I sought out.

I read one review (Cavendish review) which was written in response to reports of failings in the Mid-Staffordshire NHS trust and other hospitals and care homes. One of the key findings was that paperwork had become a barrier to delivering high quality care in the health social care sector. Frontline workers cite paperwork as one of the main barriers to being able to do their jobs properly. The main priority of the facility should be person-centred care and it’s difficult to comprehend how the people we support can feel supported if we have to keep telling them to wait five minutes while we finish paperwork. I feel a responsibility to be an advocate for the people I work for and sometimes it feels that paperwork can add very little value to their care and can be a real distraction from our duties.

I’ve heard mixed opinions from the other staff at work, one support worker said that I was spending a lot of time with the people living there and that “paperwork should come first” so I ended up staying past my hours to complete it, something that happens on a regular basis. Another support worker when I told her, completely disagreed and said that the care we offer is far more important; a principle that I share.

A rewarding job: the comical side to mental health

One-day last week it was coming towards the end of my 2-10pm hours and I was on a sleep-in shift that night. I felt quite emotionally drained that day, tired and disengaged. One of the people I support wanted me to draw a picture for her mother so I was doing that and sitting with another person who lives there. I have a very good relationship with this person and she always asks me how I am doing and I was honest with her. Being able to share my own opinions, beliefs and experiences with her is something that I really value, because I don’t think that you can expect people to trust you and open up to you if they know nothing about you. Without sharing I think that you lose your sense of personhood and I think your words and advice have less meaning if someone cannot see the person behind the support worker.

Before getting the chance to feel sorry for myself about how drained I felt, the person I was sitting with, who I’ll refer to as A, without meaning to really managed to cheer me up. What began as a conversation about feeling restless, quickly turned to my Crohn’s disease which is a popular topic for her because she’s convinced that she has IBS, and after that the destruction of the Earth. A frequently asks me what’s going on in Syria, Asia and how the Somalians are coping, and on this occasion I just couldn’t help but laugh out loud, especially because she frequently thinks it’s Armageddon. She was smiling with me and she knew that our chat had cheered me up. I was completely distracted and forgot why I was even worried in the first place. This further reinforced to me how rewarding this job is and how it is a two-way relationship with the people we support, not one-way and driven solely by the professional, as professionals are not all knowing.

Many staff who work in this field understand the importance of seeing the comical side to mental health and from experience I know how important it is to laugh at the weird and wonderful things you see and hear. It is a better thing to feel laughter than face the stark and surreal reality of poor mental health. I’ve often found it an effective tool as well, for example, one-time A was in the office and talked about how she saw ghosts and ghouls, before claiming that myself and another support worker were also ghosts. I was very light hearted in my response and being the funny lady she is, A responded well to my humour. I went up to her and said ‘hold my hand, touch my skin, feel how real I am’ and then ‘if I were a ghost I’d be able to walk through walls, let’s give that a go’ and proceeded to walk into a wall several times to prove that I was not transparent. By doing that I was not only able to make her smile but also to be her inner voice and get her to rationalise against her often illogical thoughts.

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