Services which impact on health and wellbeing are delivered by a range of professionals. In the context of integrated service delivery and regeneration all services have a role to play. It is at the point of delivery, the interface between the service user and the Fife Council, NHS Fife or voluntary sector employee that local residents form their view of a service and experience provision that is either enabling, effective and inclusive, or one which is unhelpful, inadequate or disempowering.
Previous questions have shown the value which our participants place on the helping professionals they meet. The qualities, skills and knowledge of the individuals and teams of professionals employed by Fife Council, NHS Fife and the voluntary sector in Fife matter to the process of regeneration.
This is a pictorial representation of what people told us. You can right click and save this image to your desktop as an A4 poster here.
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This question asked participants to identify the positive characteristics they recognise or want to have in helping professionals.
The right attitude is the key to the helping professional. They are happy in their job, and have a sense of humour.
“They start with a smile. They acknowledge that it’s a person in front of them."
“They make me feel valued."
“They put people at ease."
“They are good at looking past the façade."
“They have an ability to make me feel like an individual."
So, the helping professional is approachable. They are good at listening and they give encouragement. They can help put worries and concerns into perspective. Because they are helpful, and “hands on”, there is no fear of approaching them with a concern.
They give advice, explain what they see as a problem, and do so whilst being straightforward and using plain English.
“They explain things."
Part of the advice they are good at giving is referring you on to other people that can help more than they can. When the helping professional thinks a person needs to be referred on this is done quickly.
The helping professional gets things done, or knows someone who can. They are creative, even inspiring, in thinking about what might help. They are good at sorting out practical needs and requirements – like help with adaptations to homes for people with disabilities.
Respect for the client’s confidentiality is central to the way the helping professional works.
The helping professional is expected to be caring, have empathy and be non-judgemental. They stay calm and are patient. They are gentle in their approach.
Whilst understanding the person’s situation “they should be firm, they shouldn’t be too soft." The helping professional is good at distinguishing between the needs of genuine people, and those that one participant described as “fake."
They build relationships with people over time. Consistency is important.
The helping professional is also available and accessible; this is easier when you find different kinds of helping professional in the same place.
“They should be on the end of the phone if you need them."
There was a real appreciation of the helping professionals that people came into contact with. One person described the necessity of having a professional person alongside you that could help the person “overcome difficulties and progress." Two participants described the best helping professionals as being “Good at everything. Good at looking after you." One participant said: “Everyone that I have met in the last two years since my problems were discovered have treated me very well."
“Qualifications are not the most important thing, you can’t learn about everything from a book."
The helping professional has been trained to deal with the needs of the people they meet and they have relevant experience. They know how to put you at ease, and have empathy so that know “how I would react to certain situations."
They should have their own area of expertise – like understanding housing, or the law, or how to give personal care, or about living with disabilities – and they know “how to get the next step help when someone needs it” and “how to tap into resources."
“They have good local knowledge."
“Professionals need more understanding of other professional roles. And have ability to link with other professionals easily."
Their information needs to be up to date, both about their job and the person they are providing a service to. They need to “know about personal history and medical history” and they need to “be prepared to share what they know."
The helping professional recognises that sometimes life can be complex and there help is needed to unpack complexity.
“They need to be able to identify when there is a problem. Pick out the right bits form all the information."
People appreciate the expertise and specialisms that medical consultants can bring. “Thank goodness we have them." But doctors also need to know how to communicate effectively and clearly with people: “You need to know why medication is prescribed, they could draw diagrams and speak in plain English."
Other specialist skills which the helping professional can share include teaching parenting skills, good life skills. They should all know about behaviour and health and fitness.
Helping professionals, whatever their job, should know about the law, or know someone who does. They should all know something about helping people to get involved in community projects or classes.
“They should know about how to bring folk together and put them at ease."
Helping professionals know how to get things sorted. “The helping professional knows that practical advice is sometimes better than paperwork – they have hands on experience!”
There are different views about how much the helping professional needs to know the service user personally. One person put it like this: “There isn’t a need to know me personally, they need to know the system” Whilst another said the helping professional should be directly concerned about personal wellbeing: “They know how to make me happy."
Another person suggested that the service user needs to have confidence that the helping professional has “Good judgement, honesty and trust." Whilst wanting professionals to know a lot of things one person warned: “Some of them think they know everything."
“They need to know about people, bairns, families and how they work or not."
“They know I am a person with feelings too."
“You can do it!”
“I can help.”
“I know someone who can help."
“Have you tried this?”
To start with the helping professional explains who they are and why they are seeing you.
Conversations are about the person needing or getting the service. They are about helping. Meetings are positive, encouraging and calm.
When the helping professional communicates with someone they are sensitive and develop trust. The helping professional answers questions and their answers help the service user to decide what’s best to do. They give clear advice based on their good knowledge of problems or situations. They don’t tell you anything unless they are sure it’s accurate and useful.
“They speak frankly and don’t mince their words."
“They give me a kick up the bum when I need it."
They tell when they like having you as a patient/client. They give you positive feedback.
“They leave you with something to think about."
They encourage you to believe that you can do something. When they talk to you “they make you feel safe and protected."
The helping professional “speaks up for you when something is wrong. They’ll report it to the relevant person."
The helping professional will say when they have got something wrong. They can apologise.
And they never:
Talk down to you
Tell you you’re stupid
Say something that upsets you
Force you to do something
Tell you to take a couple of paracetemol
Say: “Things can only get better”
Say: “I don’t have the time to talk to you now."
“They are very professional, they have the right attitude. Always got a positive approach, so they make you feel at ease. They are just themselves and that makes you feel more relaxed."
As the theme of the discussion suggests, the helping professional helps, and gives as much as they can.
“They don’t make promises they can’t keep."
“They are at ease with me. They’re interested."
A non-judgemental approach is at the heart of the way in which the helping professional deals with people. A consistent message across contributions is that the helping professional and the service user are equal in this relationship. Politeness is crucial, experiences of professionals being “off-hand” are unacceptable.
“You accept me as you see me. And you see my point of view."
“They’re not arrogant, down to earth."
“Looks on me as an equal."
“There’s respect and a sense of humour."
The helping professional has time to deal with people. They can come and meet you in your home. They are kind, they listen and are helpful. They are available for one to one meetings when you need that. They don’t tell you what to do, but point you in the right direction.
“Never underestimate a cup of tea and an informal blether."
“They spend time, don’t rush."
“Remove barriers, help me to cope."
“They ask me what I think. I feel that I can trust them."
“There’s a partnership with parents to get to know the children and their needs."
“I have never been knocked back by anyone, ever!”
“They understand people’s abusive backgrounds, they take time to be nurturing and to build trust."
Good communication with the service users is important: “They listened to what I needed and kept in touch with me and let me know what was happening." Communication is especially important if your child is experiencing problems at school, including being bullied.
Confidentiality is crucial, especially with teachers and doctors; this includes not talking about one client with another.
“There’s mutual respect, they treat the person as a person. They don’t dismiss you. There isn’t any professional snobbery."
"I’m starting to feel as though I’m worth caring about… slowly. I feel listened to and that my opinions count. It took a long time to get to this point and see a reason to get up in the morning."
“I feel less agitated."
The helping professional leaves people feeling better about themselves.
“They make you feel comfortable and so they build your confidence and self esteem. Then you’re capable of coping and you know when to ask for help."
“They motivate me to help myself and to stay positive in my outlook on life."
“People should feel confident and loved, especially at school. Giving the kids a cuddle at school if they are upset makes them feel more secure and worthy of themselves."
“There’s a whole knock on effect of feeling listened to… and how you can carry that with you."
The helping professional makes people feel like they are welcome to go and speak to them if there are concerns. This takes time, and time isn’t something that every professional can offer, if they can’t it reduces their ability to help.
“Now I feel more optimistic – I am a person!”
“I always feel 100 times better coming out than before I went in. I’m getting to say what I feel without somebody saying ‘oh, you’re being stupid’."
Good sources of information about the helping professional includes the phone book, in leaflets other professionals give you, and leaflets in places like waiting rooms. Local press can be used to describe what services are available. Some people can access the internet as a good source of information, and it’s 24/7, so local services should use it.
Accessibility is the key. This is easier “if there are no gatekeepers." It is also easier to access someone if they are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be.
It is helpful when the hours offered by a service are as flexible as possible.
Helping professionals need good administrative support, so you can book appointments or find out when the professional is available again.
Health centres are good places to access a range of professionals. They can be good because a person might go there for positive reasons – like to a baby clinic. You can also use libraries and pharmacies like this because everybody can easily get to them, or probably already do. Places that feel like community centres, that host a lot of agencies, make the helping professional easier to find.
Schools have the potential to provide lots of good information for parents about supports for families.
Voluntary sector agencies are good ways to share information about what’s available.
One stop shops improve access.
Services should be local.
A mix of drop-ins and appointments should be available where possible.
The helping professional can also help the service user access other professionals by sharing knowledge and encouraging people to make connections with those that can help.
One suggestion was to help people organise the contact details for all the helping professionals they know, and keep them in one place so they are easy to find.
Helping professionals need to be informed about a vulnerable person’s family contacts so that they can communicate with each other when that is necessary.
Helping professionals should also be open to contact from the general public who might have concerns about children or other vulnerable people in the community.
What implications are there for regeneration activity, either in terms of policy or practice of service providers? The information from the responses to this question leads to these questions for the agencies managing regeneration activity:
Does regeneration activity:
Engage service providers, both strategically and at the level of the individual practitioner, in consideration of what the service user wants, needs or appreciates as the key characteristics of the helping professional?
Support or facilitate training/learning opportunities for practitioners in terms of the skills which have been identified here: for example listening skills; use of plain English; effective signposting?
Help build services which are person centred and personalised?
Help build services which are preventative, focused on problem solving and are action oriented?
Support services, both strategically and at the level of the individual practitioner, to be knowledgeable and up to date in their field?
Enhance services understanding, both strategically and at the level of the individual practitioner, of the importance of confidentiality; non-judgmental approaches; trust in relationships?
Support practitioners to build local knowledge and an understanding of the complexity of people’s lives? Are empathy and humility a characteristic of local services?
Build individual and community capacity in areas such as parenting and healthy living?
Result in the individual practitioner (whether local or a centralised specialist) having more time to give to the service user?
Build, through local services, individual capacity in areas such as self confidence and self efficacy?
Ensure that information about services is accessible and available?
Support services to move out of traditional models of delivery into more flexible models; thinking about opening times; location of services; outreach; co-location; mix of appointments and drop-ins; use of new technology?