Includem presented its practice champion model at CRFR’s So What? Measuring impact in services for children and young people, 22 October, 2013. Conference presentations are online.
Keir McKechnie is a practice champion at Scottish charity Includem. He has a practise background supporting vulnerable young people and adults and reflects on his new role as an internal auditor and research-use champion.
Includem provides intensive support to some of the most vulnerable and chaotic young people in Scotland. Our first principle is that no young person is beyond help.
My history with Includem is rooted in front line practice; I started as a project worker, became a senior project worker, team manager, and finally, practice champion.
As practice champion, I explore and audit Includem’s work, and monitor our model of intervention. I feed my findings back into the organisation to develop our practice - through in-depth reviews, training, and practice support. In addition to internal evaluation and assessment, I connect our practice to research.
It’s been a challenging journey from front line worker to practice champion, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. My background as a practitioner has been immensely helpful; it means that I understand the contradictions and pressures of being a front line worker. It allows me to marry up the pressures of the job with realistic expectations, and, whilst meeting standards, achievable goals.
It provides me with a useful perspective on issues which, as practice champion, I need to address. Crisis work is a case in point; for practitioners, this can be incredibly busy and can become task-driven. It’s important to provide staff with the space and time to develop reflective, quality practice, to examine what they’ve done, and how and why they’ve done it.
So far, I have written two significant reports; one on our helpline, and another on our work with families. I also investigate our complaints - all of which gives me an opportunity to listen to young people, families, and other agencies; a chance to talk about how we improve our services.
What’s really innovative about the role for me is the opportunity to talk directly to young people and families, and to get their views on the service. Feedback from young people and families goes directly back into practice training and development.
As part of my latest review into our families work, I interviewed families to get their impressions of our work with them. This proved invaluable, corroborating the findings from our written and recorded evidence. First hand feedback illustrated the importance of meaningful relationships to families; of practical support; of crisis support, trust and a listening ear. The findings of this review will be filtered throughout the organisation via direct feedback, training, and an ongoing review process.
Another exciting element of the job is the chance to implement improvements on the ground as we go along. During the review of our 24-hour helpline, it emerged that staff were dealing with very difficult cases of self-harm and suicidal thoughts in young people. I was able to respond directly to their need for support, delivering training and devising new policies with them on how to manage crises on the helpline. We now have a regular and consistent training programme in place as a result.
An important part of my role is to connect practice to research. In my review of our work with families, evidence-based approaches were tested directly on families, and then evaluated for their efficacy. As a result of the helpline review, we used the evidence base to create practice models for suicide prevention.
It can be a challenge to work in this semi-external capacity. My role is to dig deeply into our practice, and find out exactly what we do; then to “cascade” the lessons learnt back through the whole organisation.
At its heart, this role is about the young people with whom we work; constantly improving our systems, so that we can improve their outcomes.
Read more about Includem http://www.includem.org/