The Workforce

Supported staff, support others – how to improve the structures in your organisation

Only those that feel supported can support others. Here we will explore what support can feel and look like.

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

  • Individual supervision
  • Group supervision
  • Reflective practice groups
  • Spontaneous chat between colleagues
  • A casual catch up between colleagues
  • Peer support sessions

As a first reflection answer these following questions:

What support structures are currently in place at your organisation?

  • Do you have supervision?
  • Is there someone you can ask for help?

What informal ways are there to get support?

  • Within the team?
  • Outside of the team?
  • {take into consideration any physical or digital restrictions to access this informal 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:

  • Does this currently work for you?
  • How could it be improved?
  • Does it relieve stress or add stress?

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?

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