Social care is increasingly in the spotlight, with the needs of the elderly, mental health service users, offenders and other recipients of social care becoming ever more a preoccupation of the government and service providers. Funding is of course a key element in the debate, but there is also a pressing need to attend to the skills needed in the workforce and to address the question of how to provide workers with the attributes and understanding that they most need if they are to provide effective intervention with adults needing support.
People working with some of the most troubled and challenging adults in society can now learn what they need to help them offer the best possible professional service. Whether they are working with ex offenders, addicts, the homeless or other vulnerable groups, staff working on the front line with these difficult clients can now undertake a specially-developed Foundation Degree that enables them to study part-time but continue working.
The degree course, believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country, has been developed specifically for professionals already working in this difficult field, and has been launched by the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex, one of the leading centres in the UK for psychoanalytic research and teaching.
Students only need to attend the University for one half day a week at either of the University’s campuses in Colchester or Southend with a total requirement of about 1 ½ days study time, enabling those who are interested to combine pursuing the degree with work commitments.
Aimed at staff in the public, independent and voluntary sectors such as mental health, addiction, homelessness, offending, learning difficulties and the elderly, it’s hoped that the new scheme will help them learn some of the most useful skills and techniques derived from the psychodynamic approach.
The Foundation degree in Therapeutic Communication and Therapeutic Organizations has been set up by Sue Kegerreis, an experienced psychotherapist and lecturer: ‘Working with challenging or vulnerable adults is rewarding - but it is demanding and emotionally difficult work. We need to equip people in the field with the skills and understanding that they need to be able to use their own resources to the maximum and manage better the complexities of helping these clients’.
The course also provides understanding of and ways of addressing the organisational stresses that can arise in such work. ‘ Both individual workers and their agencies can be made less effective by the impact on them of their clients’ difficulties’, says Sue Kegerreis, ‘and this course can help address this through insight into team and organisational dynamics’.
A key feature of the degree is the way it works in partnership with the employing agencies, which ensures that agencies as well as individuals benefit from the programme. This approach has been highly successful in a sister course for people working with children and young people. One manager of a student who undertook that degree programme commented: ‘The growth in self-confidence, self-assurance and ability to become a more reflective practitioner that the students on the course display makes an effective and measurable impact upon daily life within our organisation.’