Why working together works…

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/Palto

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/Palto

I just got back from a conference. It was a unique one for me. I gave my first ever keynote speech.

But that wasn’t why it stood out. It stood out because of how the agencies worked together.

Why is it that after 30+ years of youth work in various roles and settings, I’ve rarely seen this done well?

Why working together is still the ideal to aim for…

The conference I attended was a celebration of the re-launch of Gweres Kernow – a service for children and young people who have displayed harmful sexual behaviour.

Or, as I prefer to put it these days: children with sexualised histories.

What I admired about their set up was the way health, social services and youth justice agencies had bought into a joint vision and were working together to achieve it.

The staff team at Gweres includes:

  • Clinical psychology child & adolescent specialist
  • A consultant social worker
  • A specialist youth offending team officer and…
  • Psychology specialist in child & adolescent learning difficulties

The service has backing from senior health, children’s services and youth justice management.

Here’s why it works:

  • The aims of the service are shared by all those working it in
  • Helping children is the central aim (“Gweres” is an old Cornish word meaning “help”)
  • No-one is precious about being the “lead” or “senior” or “principal” person/agency/manager
  • The needs of the child dictate who does the work with them

The sense I got from the day spent with these guys was this: what really mattered was doing a good job for the kids.

Getting it right for each child was the influencing force that drove the who, what and why of the service. It wasn’t about the most qualified person, the demands of the “lead” agency or the field of specialism that held the most sway.

It was about the children and their needs. It was about who could best meet them. And it was about pulling together to work to that end.

Final word…

The temptation for me in all this was to start thinking about all the difficult people I’ve encountered over the years. Those who make working together difficult to do.

I bet you can think of a few yourself!

The real lesson, though, is closer to home. Asking ourselves a simple question: when it comes to my practice, how good am I at working together with others?…

What do you think?…

  • How good are you at working together with others? 
  • What’s hindered or helped you in this?…

Please let me know what your thoughts are… Leave a comment below or click here.

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© Jonny Matthew 2014

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  • Amanda Swan Bridgland

    This is such a poinient topic, one rarely touched because we don’t like to admit to any failures; or what are deemed as failures. This certainly does make you think and generally most people do not like to look at themselves. Looking at ones self can be quite shocking but to work with others, particularly vulnerable people, this must be a necessity. How can we guide others if we do not positively regulate our own behaviour? It is refreshing to hear of so many people coming together at the conference to work together as one instead of separate departments. The Youth Offending Service has changed to the Youth Integrated Services now which is much better, but it is just a name if the working ethos stays the same.

    • jonnymatthew

      You’re right, Amanda. Ultimately we can only really take full responsibility for ourselves. Staying reflective and appropriately self-critical is key to this. It also ensures that we continue to learn. Good outcomes for children and young people are better served by those who have open minds about their own practice. You might find this previous post about reflection useful: http://jonnymatthew.com/2013/09/19/no-43-reflection-a-carers-lost-art/ Cheers, Jonny.

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