We all take risks every day as part of normal lives, we drive cars, cross roads and participate in activities which could cause harm. It is impossible to eliminate risk completely, but perceiving where it may be possible and using preventative measures to protect from harm is a factor. Risk taking is usually thought of as a means of danger. Although there may be negative elements, it can have positive benefits for the service user in terms of achievement.
Once an individual has had a bad experience while carrying out a task, it diminishes their confidence and self-worth and makes the task seem impossible to achieve. When a person who has no perception of disabilities makes an aside of how someone in a wheelchair, for instance, could ever do something like climb a mountain, for the wheelchair user with a low feeling of worth and achievement this sort of comment makes even more of a barrier.
When risk taking, the individual needs to accept a certain amount of responsibility, assessing the activity with others before attempting a task, asking questions and having additional support where necessary to achieve a positive outcome. This will encompass all elements of responsibility, empowerment and social inclusion.
A person centred approach will take into account people’s rights to live the lifestyle they choose and will focus on what is important to that person and what they would like to achieve in life, giving them control, including the chance to take risks and make bad choices as long as it does not harm them unnecessarily.
One of our service users wishes to help with the house shopping once a month. With this being his choice, it is looked at how we, as his support workers, could assist him with this, taking into account his disabilities and likelihood of any risk of harm to himself or others and so a plan has been put in place around his choice, which has given him some sense of meaning and achievement. Should certain circumstances change the risk assessment will be reviewed in order to continue to support the individual and enable him to feel empowered, achieving positive outcomes.
With the above in mind, the service user will have a support plan enabling him, and us, to manage any identified risks and how to overcome them in a positive manner to ensure he achieves his aim of completing a shopping trip, promoting independence and social inclusion, while keeping risk at a minimum. Risks will change when circumstances change, therefore, should be reviewed on a regular basis – while risk can be minimised, it cannot be entirely eliminated.
Where a person centred approach is for the best possible outcome for the individual service user, a service focussed approach is for the best possible outcome for the service provider rather than the individual. This may mean that they need to change a design layout in order to accommodate service users with certain physical disabilities, this may be done without consultation with users of the facility and not necessarily accessible to all.
When decisions are made for a service focussed outcome, individuals may feel that they have no input into the decisions, which could lower their self-esteem. If the final plan of the service focus does not meet the requirements for the service user, it could cause a barrier to use of the facility and a feeling of failure for the individual that they cannot access something which they may have desired.
The Equality Act 2010 and Human Rights Act 1998 is in place to protect service users’ human rights, therefore, when considering identification, assessment and management of risk, knowledge of legislation is paramount for the service providers to promote involvement and interests of the service user and family, allowing them to have some control over their own lives and not be discriminated against in any way.
A human rights based approach will support an individual to make a choice of whether they would like to take a certain amount of risk, giving them freedom to do as they please, as long as they have been assessed to have the mental capacity to make that choice by themselves. Should the individual feel that their human rights have been breached, as they have not been able to make their own decision, they have the right to then take court proceedings.
When working with our service users and supporting them to take risks, it is easy enough for us to say that an activity is easy, but put yourselves in the shoes of your service user who may have difficulty in mobility or speech and ensure you put your own thoughts, beliefs and values aside while giving them the best of your support and considering where they may achieve results using their own strengths and weaknesses and help them to flourish.
All support workers in our sector are trained to a minimum standard and are knowledgeable of the Care Council for Wales’ guidelines through the Code of Practice and Policies/Procedures of our own company as regards duty of care; “as a social care worker, you must respect the rights of service users whilst seeking to ensure that their behaviour does not harm themselves or other people”.
Whilst taking a person centred approach to risk, the activity has been assessed, with the understanding and input of the service user, with precautionary measures put in place where necessary. All risk assessments are known to our care workers who work to the guidelines set out to ensure that no harm comes to anyone.
Should an individual decide to take an unplanned risk, or partake in a move that might not have been in the original risk assessment, it is our duty to safeguard the service users and people in the vicinity – advise the individual of what harm his action may make to himself or others and stop the activity. This action will then be noted in the update of the risk assessment to see if there are any other measures we need to put in place to prevent this from happening again. Should a support worker not have taken reasonable care of a risk taking place, they could find themselves considered negligent and damages may be claimed from them in court.