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Rewriting the rule book

Policies are an important part of any organisation. Walsingham Support is no exception. Our policies safeguard, promote and improve the lives of the people we support and, until now, these policies were written and implemented by the charity. That has changed.

In 2015, an individual supported in the north of England shared her experience of a support worker leaving without saying goodbye and the negative effect this sudden and unexplained event had on her. She shared this story with her local involvement and participation group (an initiative we run across the country to give the individuals we support direct influence on the decisions and direction of the charity), this triggered the beginning of a much bigger debate, one which would eventually lead to a huge change in the way we provide support.

They began to explore the nature of the relationship between an individual and a support worker, identifying behaviours and practices they felt worked and those that didn’t and discussed how individual preferences could be recognised and protected.

The group realised that this issue affected every individual supported by the charity and decided to open this out to a wider group for discussion. They shared their initial ideas and thoughts at the organisation’s national Involvement Conference, an annual event for people supported across the organisation to come together and influence organisational decisions. The issue struck a chord with the national audience and motivated them to create something concrete around the issue.

The decision was made to create a new policy for the organisation to support individual choices and guide staff on how to build professional relationships with people they support.

There followed many lengthy debates to identify and define the areas that the policy should address. Frank and sometimes challenging discussions were had within the group defining what boundaries meant, how they should be defined and how they would fit into this new policy.

It was agreed that the policy would cover issues found to be most relevant to individuals supported including intimate physical contact, tactile boundaries, money, gifts and belongings, social media, contact outside of work hours and disclosing personal information.

Two years after the first discussion the professional boundaries policy was implemented. A fantastic moment for the individuals who created this unique piece of work and for the organisation as it redefined policy development and implementation in its sector.

Our professional boundaries policy is the first of its kind implemented by any charity in the social care sector, that we know of, and the first of many to come.