The news is going to hit you and it’s going to hit you hard. It’s likely this will be out of the blue, so make sure you take a moment to breathe and take in what you’ve been told. Instinct is to react and many of us are hot headed, but a calm approach is what’s needed. If you have to, take a moment to yourself to reflect on the news.
Consult your workplace policy, HR team and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) for advice. It’s important that you know the process that will be followed, any possible outcomes and how to ensure your version of events are heard.
Investigations are confidential and it’s likely you’ll want to speak to someone or seek advice, especially from the people closest to you, including your colleagues. If you do confide in other team members, remember not to put them in jeopardy if they form part of the investigation and consider the appropriateness of conversations and the setting you discuss this in.
Remember the saying, if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen! Well now is the time to make sure your documentation and timeline of events is solid. Think back to everything that happened, who was there etc - put these onto paper and build a timeline. Sometimes allegations and complaints can happen months or even years after and it can be harder to remember, but try to consider everything that happened in as much detail as possible.
A big take home here is the importance of note taking. Someone should be able to pick up your care notes and know exactly what has and hasn’t been done to support someone and how someone was when you left. If notes need to be used in court two years after an event, a half-hearted entry is not going to stand you in good stead.
Take some time off
Dependent on the severity of a complaint, you may be suspended – this is very common in abuse allegations where there’s a duty of care to service users.
For less sever complaints, it’s likely that you’ll feel stressed, worried and anxious which will in turn impact the delivery of care you’re providing. Make sure you know if enough is enough, you need a break or time off is key and you should have that conversation with your line manager and your GP.
My final advice
If you’ve read this and you care for a client with a history of making allegations, be sure this is documented in their care plans and risk assessments so that you and your colleagues are protected. This is especially important if these allegations are unfounded.
Allegations and complaints are something that no one wants to go through and from experience of supporting people who have a history of making allegations, it’s something that never gets easier – but, by having the right tools and support around you, it can definitely help.