I recently read an article on LinkedIn about a children’s service that had been closed due to institutional abuse. In their post, the author broke down where the failings occurred, which included the local authority, the care provider and Ofsted. One interesting thing they highlighted was the culture of the service. It made me think about Winterbourne View and Whorlton Hall and how the closed cultures in those horrific circumstances aided the abuse and kept it covered for longer. This week, I'm sharing strategies for preventing closed cultures.
Communication, as they always say, is key. As managers or leaders of a team, we should strive to have open, honest and transparent conversations. We can increase our communication through day-to-day conversations, team meetings, feedback gathering and reflective sessions.
Remove the blame
Our teams need a culture where being honest and admitting mistakes does not open them up to criticism and blame. We can avoid this by ensuring we create a culture where people feel comfortable and confident to share their ideas and experiences.
Equality and Diversity
Care providers must strive to promote equality and diversity alongside inclusivity. Recently, there has been more awareness of this, but I believe we have much further to go. If you're at the start of your journey, some simple things you could do are:
- Include training to remove unconscious bias in company goals and targets.
- Make a habit of using inclusive language.
- Ensure staff are trained and upskilled.
- Offer flexible working.
- Implement diverse hiring practices.
- Celebrate diversity.
- Create an inclusive workplace.
- Foster a culture of respect, where everyone's views are valued, regardless of background or circumstance.
All the failings across children and adult services have been due to a lack of transparency. Care providers need to ensure that they are transparent and hold themselves accountable for their actions. Conduct audits without bias and put processes in place to ensure resulting actions are taken, so that lessons can be learnt.
Seek feedback from people who use the service, their representatives and family. As well as from staff, commissioners and other visitors. This feedback must be available, along with the actions taken to remove any issues or concerns.
Care providers should ensure they collaborate with external organisations to promote social engagement and opportunities for the people they are supporting. Having external organisations and networks coming into contact with the people you support, the staff and within the services removes the opportunity for things to be hidden and unspoken about. In more recent times we have seen care providers collaborate more with one another, sharing best practice and ideas but we should build on this and ensure our staff also have their own networks such as senior care workers, activity leads and other care workers.
Care providers should ensure they collaborate with external organisations to promote social engagement and opportunities for the people they support. Creating contact between external organisations and networks, the people you support and staff removes the risk of things being hidden and not spoken about.
In more recent times, we have seen care providers collaborate more with one another, sharing best practices and ideas. We need to build on this and ensure our staff have access to their own networks, such as senior care workers, activity leads and other care workers.
Eliminate power imbalances
When a power imbalance occurs, we should address these straight away and not leave them to fester. We can prevent power imbalances with staff training, policies that promote equity and fairness, a zero bullying culture, addressing poor practices and ensuring staff feel confident and comfortable to raise concerns.
This is not an exhaustive list and there are many more things you can do to prevent a closed culture. However, I wanted this to be a short, easy-to-use article for you to cross-reference against your service. Most of us do all we can for the people we support and the teams we work with, and unfortunately, it's the small minority that give us a bad reputation. Remember, you have a whistleblowing policy, and if you have concerns your company is not listening to, you can contact your local safeguarding team and our regulator, the Care Quality Commission.