Providing support, help, advice for young people can a difficult task, at times emotionally, physically, and mentally demanding. Working in such a role means that regular moments for recharging and recentring are needed. Support can be a tricky thing to improve or change – because the only true outcome that matters is an intangible, subjective sense of ‘feeling supported’. Therefore, this section is kept intentionally broad – because support looks and feels different depending on your context and your organisation.
Support is one of the cornerstones of relationship-based practice, it can cement the culture and ensure that relational practice is consistent and sustainable. Because only when people feel supported can they maintain the values, trust and autonomy need to build relationships, even under changing workload, stress and pressures.
Reflection as a source of support is mentioned in Relationship-based practice, social pedagogy, psychodynamic theories and many other frameworks. Reflection is a moment where you can sit back, look back at what happen and understand better the impact that is had on you. Reflection often happens informally, but there are more formal structures that can facilitate reflections. For example, you might not recognise chatting to a colleague about a difficult day while making a cup of tea as reflection – but it is. Formal reflection can take place in groups or individual, for example in 1-2-1 supervision or team meetings. Importantly, these moment to provide support are relational, you cannot do them in isolation and the quality of the support depend on the relationships between the individuals. Therefore, the support that staff feel will depend both on the presence/absence of support structures as well as the quality of relationships within those.
Examples of support
As a first reflection answer these following questions:
What support structures are currently in place at your organisation?
What informal ways are there to get support?
Working with young people you will know that support needs to be adaptable and flexible to work for the person. Do the current support structures work for you?
Go through the list of formal and informal support structures and answer the following questions:
If you are in a position where you lead people, you can do these reflections in a team. Ideally, give each team member the opportunity to work on these questions on their own for a richer group discussion.
Lastly, check that you have considered both the presence and absence of certain support structures, as well the quality of each one of them. Does the strength of relationships exist to make these support sessions useful?
Relationships are an important part of everyone’s life. For example, everything we learn as children depends on others teaching us. But did you know that good relationships also have an influence on our physical and mental health (Griffith, 2017)? Relationship-based practice combines what we know about childhood development, trauma, resilience, and relationships to promote the best for children and adolescents.
Early life experiences shape our mind and body in ways that we are understanding more and more, especially when these experiences are traumatic. Trauma-informed practice takes this knowledge and creates a holistic framework for practitioners and organisations to create healing and safe spaces and ways of working.
First introductions matter. It matters when, how and where they happen. Many young people speak about transitions are often the most difficult times. In this Guide we explore how transitions can be done from the lens of relational practice.
What do IT systems and relationships have in common? Both usually run in the background and are easily taken for granted. Perhaps surprisingly, IT systems can have a big influence on the quality of relationships and relational practice in general.
When you know your goal you do whatever you need to do to reach it. But what if you defined the goal in the wrong way? In this Guide we explore how the goal affects your actions and how you can make sure that you are measuring your success in the right way. Are you meeting an outcome or are you filling a need?
One of the first things you learn when you start your job is when you need to arrive and when you need to leave. Have you ever considered that the pattern of your work affects the relationships you are building?
Organisational values influence the working culture. They can inspire workers to follow the organisation's mission. However, for them to have an impact they need to be developed with staff and young people.
It is important to keep learning and growing. Recognise your staff’s value and expertise by developing internal training and discussion sessions. Enable staff to learn and train more. Training should not be a tick-box exercise but a place for growth and reflection.
As is often said, hurt people hurt people – it is even more important to consider the flipside: supported people support people. Working with young people and caring for them can be a demanding role, especially in under-resourced and stressful environments. A truly relational organisation also invests in the relationships between managers and staff, creating a positive environment for everyone.
Relationships do not just depend on one person, but rather on a network of people and the culture of an organisation. Sometimes one person who simple ‘doesn’t get it’ can put barriers in the way for an entire team to become less relational. So, it’s easy to see why recruiting the right people is so important to create and maintain a relational organisation.
All relationships take time and effort to build and develop relationships with young people with care experience is no exception, perhaps being even more difficult due to their backgrounds however with the right understanding and approach you could develop a strong and positive connection which will benefit both you and your young person.
Relationships are essential to all parts of life and encompass both our professional and personal lives. They are a vital part of the support networks for our young people and the stronger the relationship the better we can all do our jobs, perhaps making them feel less like a job and more like a vocation. And perhaps more importantly, the stronger the relationship the more important a young person might feel.