We reviewed a number of relevant policies to ensure that service user employees were treated the same as other staff and volunteers, in particular, that their client-related information was only available to other staff on a need-to-know basis. Further guidelines and protocols were developed over time.
Providing support to service user employees
After a period of experimentation and learning, we devised the Protocol for Providing Support Services to Service User Employees. This outlines the framework within which a person can both receive and provide a service.
The principle underlying the protocol is that there should be clear boundaries drawn between supporting and managing people who are both service users and employees. This is clarified in a number of ways, including:
The protocol states that it is not acceptable to contact the service user via the organisation’s employment structures unless given express consent by the service user to do so
Information on employees kept on our client database, LINK, is to be anonymised to protect employees’ confidentiality
This was further developed into a separate procedure on anonymising client records.
Our Protocol for Providing Support Services to Service User Employeescan be downloaded from the policies page.
During the first 24 months of the GROW traineeships, two issues arose regarding having anonymised data for Thames Reach’s service users who have become employees:
- When service user employee details are anonymised on our client database, LINK, it has been difficult at times to quickly locate the duplicate record that contains the real details. One consequence of this is that if a third party, e.g. social services or a hospital A&E, contacted Thames Reach to enquire whether we worked with an individual, there was no way of responding effectively unless the team manager or the keyworker were available.
- There were also safety issues to consider. Tenancy sustainment workers visit service users in their homes alone. Thames Reach has a lone working policy and a duty system which would be used in emergencies. This relies on correct name and address details for all our clients being available, so that assistance can be directed to workers when needed or workers’ movements can be tracked if they do not call in. Having no correct details for service user employees potentially puts workers visiting them at risk.
To overcome these issues the procedure was changed so that service user employees’ LINK records remain under their own name but only contain a note that the records have been anonymised and to contact the team manager.
This allows someone responding to an emergency call to give the caller the basic information (i.e. that the person is a Thames Reach service user), while all their other information is kept confidential within the duplicate anonymised LINK record.
It has also been agreed that when workers visit service user employees at home, their correct name and address are recorded on the whiteboard in the office.
Our procedure for anonymising client records can be downloaded from the policies page.