From Quantity to Quality

26 February 2015

From Quantity to Quality

Over the last 18 months HSA Australia has been involved in supporting staff from The Department of Ageing Disability and Home Care to learn about and implement a new planning policy. The new policy is set to launch later this month so I’ve been taking some time to reflect on what these changes mean in a practical sense beyond the idea of simply a new policy.

Last week I got to hear about some of those changes as I came to the end of a set of action learning workshops with a group of ADHC staff. Some of the staff teams came along prepared to share the work that they’ve been doing and reflect on their own experience applying a different approach to planning within their teams and with the people they support.

One of the main things that has been reinforced to me in the last couple of months is the difference in quality of both listening and planning when you give staff different ways to gather information with people and support them to develop these skills. When this paired with balancing guidelines and the importance of quality, with the importance of being flexible and creative, staff are able to focus on the reason for planning with people and not just the “final product”. Too often quality is measured by how many boxes are ticked, how many goals have been set or what paperwork has been completed. Even though these are often set with best intentions they can sometimes end up clouding what the work is really all about and that’s where the risk of “going through the motions” arises.

When I first met the most recent teams I have been working with, they were obviously passionate about their jobs and wanted to do the best for people they support, but felt unsure about how to move to a more flexible approach to planning and still maintain quality. There were also concerns about getting it wrong and how many tools to use. Now as confidence levels grow, creative work is coming through and there is a level of collaboration with all involved that people are starting to understand as being essential to planning. The quality is there but people are looking at quality of information, quality of outcomes and the quality of listening not the amount of attachments they have filled in.

People sometimes struggle planning with individuals who have complex / non-verbal communication. A couple of teams who supported people who have that label had set themselves some actions to explore communication and to be mindful of looking / listening for it in their day-to-day work. The outcomes have been communication charts and profiles starting to take shape where there was limited information, people noticing communication that they had not picked up on before and new ideas for opportunities for individuals based on what they are communicating. One team noticed small gestures and facial expressions with someone that they had not noticed before, another team discovered that someone they supported understands basic sign language and are hoping to build on that over time.

The focus on connecting people to communities that make sense to them has really come through as people are moving away from the quantity of hours someone spends “in the community” to how meaningful this is for each person. One group spoke about the connections someone they support is making at her local gym and the contribution she makes, as everyone is motivated by her enthusiasm and enjoy working out when she is there.

What is emerging from all of this is staff focusing on quality because they see it as important to supporting people to have positive control over their lives and because they are looking at planning as important and helpful and not just another task that is on the list of things to do. The stories that I’m hearing have, simply put, been about people getting a life and not just a new planning process.


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