"The function of keyworking is to enable change to take place” - Beckler (1998)
The process of assessment is an on-going and organic one, in that it evolves constantly and will require regular review. The stage at which the assessment conversation becomes a planning one will depend a lot on the type of service operated, the potential length of stay and the nature of the issues people come to the service with. This section attempts to outline some basic principles for the keywork and support/support planning process.
The groundwork preparatory to a trusting partnership between resident and keyworker cannot be emphasised enough. More information on communication skills and relationship building is available in engagement. The move into support planning and task centred keywork sessions is in order to address the issues you have (jointly) identified, and formulated as being achievable and important in the process of assessment. This section takes you through the next stages of the process.
Introduction | Models of keyworking | Policy and procedures | The Role of Keyworker | Values of keyworking | Procedure | Addressing the issues | Milestones | Significant others/networks | Implementation | Review | Evaluation | Supervision | Other resources
Keyworking is a term used to describe an approach to care or support planning where each resident has allocated to them one hostel worker, known as their keyworker, who will be their main source of professional support during their stay.
“Keyworking means an effort that is directed or lead by a designated worker, to achieve a pre-determined objective.”
Martyn Robson, Thames Reach
Keyworking is about supporting the resident in their efforts to meet their needs and achieve personal goals within the mission and objectives of the hostel. Within this, it is about the process of change and preparation for successful move-on.
The model described in this section is the ‘classic’ keyworking model of one keyworker to one resident. However, this should not be regarded as the only way of achieving the aims of keyworking. Some providers are experimenting with other approaches to offering an in-depth support service with resident. If this is the model adopted, consideration should be given to reasonable caseloads of residents to keyworkers, and to the importance of sharing information within the team to assure consistency of service to the resident and support and supervision to the keyworker.
Keyworking in temporary accommodation for homeless people draws on many different models of working and theoretical traditions. In many projects, keyworking was established from a clear theoretical grounding. More common, however, is a way of working that is implicit, rarely explored and therefore not open to scrutiny or challenge from within the project or from outside.
The various traditions or models include:
“Keyworking is a system for providing individualised social care through named persons. A keyworker is the person who has responsibility and accountability for the care of the service user. Keyworkers help and support service users in making decisions relating to their situation”
As an area of practice that largely takes place in one-to-one situations with residents, keyworking can tend to elude the scrutiny of the quality and good practice agendas. Developing good practice in keyworking demands that assumptions, theoretical traditions, models, practices and measures of success are made explicit.
The diversity of hostels probably prohibits, at least for the time being, the development of a model for the whole sector. Rather, each hostel should, over time, explore and make explicit their own keyworking model. The model should be:
By making the model explicit, hostels will be able to develop quality measures and good practice.
Hostels should develop a written policy on support and care within their projects, including their “philosophy of care”, and how this fits with their overall mission and aims. The policy should set out the values that underpin its work with residents. Ideally, they would develop this through consultation with staff and residents. Hostels should also set out procedures for keyworking, describing what residents can expect from the service. The procedures might include guidelines on allocating keyworkers, frequency of keywork sessions and so on. In some hostels, engagement with the keywork process is a requisite of stay, and evictions (although there are very few) are most frequently for non engagement with support. If this is the case, it is an important aspect of admission and induction, and needs to be explained, reviewed, clarified and relatively flexible. In developing these procedures, providers will need to consider establishing realistic caseloads for keyworkers, and a notion of the minimum of engagement required.
Keyworking is just one of several roles played by staff in emergency accommodation. The other roles include, among others, duty workers, housing manager, and resettlement workers. Some projects split these roles into separate jobs, but in most staff switch between them in their day to day work.
The role of keyworker includes the following elements:
Keyworkers also act a conduit between the team and their residents, passing on information to the resident and feeding back comments on the service to the team.
The values underpinning keyworking include:
Evidence that these values are more than mere good intentions will be found in keyworking sessions and in the general interactions that take place in the project. It is by putting these values into practice that the keyworker can ensure they are acting in the ‘best interests’ of the resident. Through training, team and resident meetings, staff and residents might find it helpful to explore how these values can put into practice in all interactions in the project, but especially in keyworking sessions.
Keywork normally consists of a series of one-to-one meetings between the resident and their keyworker, taking place on a regular basis. Ad-hoc meetings or informal ‘chats’ will invariably take place in-between these formal sessions. The frequency and amount of time available will depend on the staff to resident ratio, shift patterns and how often the resident comes to the hostel. The intensity of keyworking will depend on the needs of the resident. Where residents have multiple needs, keyworking capacity will have to be higher than where residents have few needs. The staff team should be honest and realistic about the level of support the project can offer the resident. This should be made clear when the person comes first accesses the hostel. Timing of keywork sessions will have to suit the resident’s schedule.
When planning new services or evaluating existing ones, hostels should take into account the capacity to carry out effective keyworking in staffing levels, budgets and funding streams.
Formal keywork sessions should take place in a private space, as free from interruptions and distractions as possible. Offering a comfortable and relaxing environment, with comfortable chairs, a desk or table, telephone for outgoing calls and so on, will create an atmosphere conducive to working together on the issues.
Planning is about making decisions about how we get from where we are to where we want to be. Or in this case, how the resident and the hostel worker will prioritise the needs and goals identified in the assessment and how they will go about addressing them.
In hostels and emergency accommodation, some of the initial priorities can be proscribed by necessity - such as registering a HB claim or obtaining a NI number etc. This work may also be undertaken by the keyworker, or by a different member of staff. In filling in forms like this and ascertaining basic facts about the person, you are finding out a lot of personal information about them when they know very little about you. It is a good time to offer information about the service, and the people there, if that makes it seems less one sided and breaks up the monotony of the necessary paperwork.
Some services are able to allow residents a settling in period of up to several weeks before the real work of assessment and support planning begins. For some people, this time may be used to get used to the hostel, claim benefits etc, perhaps even get a script. In other services, the move-on time is much shorter, and the formal keywork sessions start much earlier, and sometimes, less formally – over coffee etc and when it is possible to get a few minutes with the person if they are chaotic for example.
When it is appropriate – that is not when there are clearly more pressing needs threatening the person’s immediate physical needs for well-being such as shelter and food, their next fix ...the keyworker should help the resident to establish and describe their personal goals. This is like creating a ‘vision’ of their future or a ‘scenario’ of how they want things to be. The role of the hostel worker will be to help the resident think about their plan and decide if it is realistic. Staff should be encouraging and honest.
The next step is identifying the tasks or changes that are necessary to achieve the goals. To do this will require bringing together the strengths and resources and the needs and issues identified in the assessment. It will also require developing the resident’s network in a way that will support them in their new scenario. An important part of planning will be identifying and exploring options.
Plans should be written down. They should include:
For an example of an action plan, see the proforma support planning: action plan
There should be space on the plan for adding comments afterwards about whether the tasks were completed and any learning for the resident and the hostel worker.
Identifying ‘milestones’ is often useful. Milestones seek to answer the question, ‘how will we know if we are making progress? They are ‘mini-goals’ or events along the road to the larger goals that show that we are travelling in the right direction, give us a sense of achievement and encourage us to continue. Support plans should be signed by the hostel worker and the resident and dated and review dates should be agreed in them.
In hostels a significant element of support planning may be about resettlement (see the Resettlement handbook). Each project should look at how the support planning functions fit in with the resettlement process. In some hostels, there are dedicated resettlement workers who take over the process as the resident prepares to move on. Where this happens, the transfer of information between the workers is crucial, as is the fact that trusting relationships where good work can happen is on the whole built between individuals and not services, so the resettlement worker needs to spend time building up a relationship before taking over. Wherever possible the first few meetings should be three way.
Other significant others to be considered in keyworking and support planning are representatives of other agencies the person may be involved with, such as probation services, youth worker, drug or alcohol or mental health workers. You can find more information on working with and developing the keywork relationship with these groups of people in the section The needs of Individuals
If appropriate, if the person has a significant other or friend or family member in the area they are moving to, they could be present occasionally to balance the dynamic and work with the person’s network. On this note, one service in Brighton have an innovative approach to dealing with visitors at the hostel, which is that the people a resident wants to be able to visit are built into their support plan, describing the relationship with the resident and the times the visitor would want to visit. New friends who want to visit have to be mentioned to the keyworker and agreed in the persons support plan before they can visit.
Support planning should be about increasing the control the resident has within their lives and about learning. This implies that the resident should have as much responsibility as possible in carrying out the tasks in the plan. There will be some tasks that only the hostel worker can do, but taking too much control is disempowering. Having said this, we all need help in some areas of our lives; and knowing how when and how to get help is an important skill.
In addition to empowerment, the hostel worker and resident may have to work around issues of motivation. Ideas and techniques in building motivation to change developed in working with addictions can be useful and staff should seek to develop their skills in motivational interviewing.
Implementation of the support plan will involve getting help from other agencies, such as housing providers, alcohol or drug services, furniture projects, advice centres and so on.
Where another agency is taking the lead in supporting a resident, the support plan should explain this and provide contact details. Assessment and support planning sessions could be then used to ensure that the support being provided is meeting the resident’s needs. The hostel worker may take an advocacy role if the support seems to be inadequate or is breaking down. Staff may also be responsible for the resident’s resettlement, including arranging for referrals to housing providers and seeking a Community Care assessment to get funding for on-going support.
The support plan and its implementation will form the basis of ongoing sessions. Over time the plan may have to be revised and new approaches taken. This review should be a shared learning process for the resident and hostel worker.
Each hostel should seek to evaluate its assessment and support planning services. The evaluation should consider the whole model and should be based on feedback from residents as well as input from the staff involved. Since some of what happens takes place in private one-to-one sessions, hostels should consider how approaches can be properly evaluated. For example, with the permission of the resident involved, external evaluators may be called on to sit in on a formal session, interview the resident separately and provide feedback to the hostel worker and the team.
Hostels should consider what they view as success in assessment and support planning and the kinds of evidence that might be available to show that it is achieving what it is supposed to.
A range of indicators might be used, including evidence of:
For more information on what outcomes are and how to develop them see the Quality section in Creating a positive environment.
In supervision, line managers should review files with the hostel worker. This is an opportunity for them to:
Innovative approaches to supervision: Coming soon >> case study clinical supervision for drug and alcohol workers.