"Roger joined our team as a support worker and fitted well into the team. He took on a patch of clients and demonstrated enthusiasm and commitment to the role. In the past, Roger had been a recipient of support provided by another agency and he was open about his motivation being to offer support to individuals experiencing similar difficulties to those he had encountered.
"However, after completing the GROW traineeship and being in his current position for approximately one year, I received three consecutive complaints from clients regarding Roger. While investigating these complaints it became apparent that Roger was struggling to maintain professional boundaries with his clients and this has led him to act in an unprofessional manner.
"Roger had tried to befriend a number of his clients. He wanted them to trust him and open up to him. This desire to ‘bond’ with his clients led to the following problems:
Roger had disclosed to some clients issues from his own personal life which he felt would be helpful. He did this without being aware of how inappropriate or unhelpful some of these disclosures may be when trying to develop a professional working relationship with certain clients.
Roger had experience of attending AA meetings and had replicated some of the methods used during meetings with his clients. Again, this led him to disclose too much of his experience and also led to inappropriate bodily contact.
Roger described how he felt that his own personal experiences had led him to have something of an ‘us and them’ mentality. Roger described how he was used to ‘blagging’ his way through life and had advised his clients how to circumvent rules and regulations.
Roger was extremely motivated to get results for his clients and where he felt other agencies were being unresponsive he became frustrated, again leading to unprofessional behaviour.
"In general, Roger had not fully understood the need to deliver a service as a Thames Reach employee in a consistent professional and boundaried manner.
"As a result of the investigation into his performance, Roger received a written warning and a follow up improvement plan was created. Roger engaged well in this process and was clear that he wanted to learn from the experience.
"Some of the key lessons from the above are:
Ensure support workers receive regular and robust supervision. I feel there is a tendency to ask team members who may be inexperienced to supervise new entry level staff, i.e. support workers. When individuals join the team with little experience of the role or, indeed, any sort of support work, I feel it is sensible for the team manager to supervise them, to ensure that they are being managed effectively.
Professional working practice and professional boundaries should explicitly be discussed during supervision, prompting the worker to talk about scenarios they have come across and how they responded. Roger did not feel confident discussing some of his practice as he was unsure of how he would be supported. Sometimes, if people have had negative and punitive experiences in employment in the past, this can lead to apprehension when engaging with management.
One factor that compromised Roger’s professionalism was when he was asked to provide support to two clients who he had been acquainted with prior to becoming an employee. I feel this did not help Roger to understand issues around professional boundaries and consequently we have changed our practice to ensure that former service users do not work with clients who are also their friends."