"You never know what's going to happen next" is a statement which both supports the attractions of residential work, and at the same time underlines its hopeless and debilitating disadvantages for the worker.
Need this be so? I would maintain that organisation and planning are the nuts and bolts of good care, through which one hundred and one demands become organised in order of priority, through which individual attention becomes possible, and through which day to day coping becomes everyday productive caring. Let us imagine the scene at the beginning of any early shift:
Sue has already been in for 20 minutes by the time John and Ann come into the kitchen rather bleary-eyed after sleeping in. Sue, an experienced and senior worker, is the coordinator for the day; she will plan it and see it through, as she does one day each week. By 7 am she had read the diary (log book) for yesterday (her day off), skimmed through any new notes in the book, read the notes left for her by yesterday's co-ordinator and looked at the appointments diary for the day.
John makes tea. By five past seven Terry has arrived and the four of them sit down to plan the morning.
Sue begins to rough out a list. First they discuss waking the children. John had a long talk with Dave at bedtime and has promised to wake him and see him into school. In addition, John will wake four other children who all get up quite easily, leaving John free to give attention to Dave. Sue often wakes the three sisters who share a room and the two boys opposite, and although the three girls are often very difficult in the mornings, Sue is their special worker and has some news to tell them about her visit to their mother two days ago. At this point Sonia (12 years old) arrives in the kitchen in her nightie and quietly sits and has a cup of tea after leaning on Sue's shoulder and looking at the rough plan of the morning which is taking shape on the kitchen table. Terry and Ann will wake the other children. "Terry, make sure Yvonne wears her blue school skirt – the school rang yesterday to complain about that bright red one."
Terry gets the job of preparing breakfast (the tables were laid last night). "Will Yvonne need someone to take her to school today?" Terry should be ready to do so if required. Ann will drive the minibus for the school run. John will be in the back with the children, especially Dave. "Oh, and Michael needs his PE kit from the laundry."
Sue looks at her list and the notes for today. Mark's review at 10 am. "Keep an eye on him, he's very fidgety about his mother coming. Terry, if you are waking him, make some plans with him about what to do between breakfast and the review (make some buns for everyone?) If you get stuck with taking Yvonne to school, hand Mark on to me." Chris (17 years) comes into the kitchen to make his packed lunch for work. Sue looks at the kitchen clock it's 7.20 am. They start.
As Sue sits writing the diary at 9.15 am she reflects on work so far accomplished. She looks at her waking up list. John continued last night's work with Dave and they were sitting happily together at breakfast with Dave looking ready for school and reassured by the strength of John's attention. Each clear and supported morning for Dave at present is another small step on his way to some measure of self reliance. However such was John's attention to Dave that Stephen, who generally likes school and whom John often helps with homework, was threatening to bunk off today. He went off all right in the end but Sue feels this is worth passing on for tomorrow morning, so that if possible Stephen is woken by someone not waking Dave, or at least gets some uncluttered attention. It goes down on the duty notes she is compiling for tomorrow's co-ordinator.
Sue managed to have a good talk with the three sisters about her visit to their mum, while she helped to clear the room, change a wet bed and brush the youngest one's hair. Sue noticed that Paul seemed very quiet and withdrawn at breakfast. Is he often? A contrast with Beverly who hardly stopped talking to Sue throughout the meal “and she ate a lot.
Sue suspects that things didn't turn out too well with Yvonne. She saw her sidling out of the door. She did have her school skirt on, but carried a bundle of red under her arm. Sue goes to the kitchen to ask Terry what happened.
Terry and Mark are busy with the buns. Mark is putting dollops of mixture into one bun tray while Terry is greasing the other. The mini-bus pulls up outside. Ann and John head for the kitchen to bring Sue up to date. The school run went well, Dave went in happily and John had a word with his teacher who says things are gradually improving, although yesterday there was a bad scene with one of the other teachers. John will write a full note about it. There was a useful session in the van when Margaret asked why Mark wasn't going to school today. Several children were anxious to talk about their own reviews, and shared quite a lot with each other about their present home circumstances.
Sue goes to the office to finish the diary and make a couple of telephone calls (one to Yvonne's school to see if she made it). John wants to write his note on Dave before he goes off at 10 am. Ann is going to check round upstairs and then she has a telephone call to make to one of the area teams and notes to write up on last night's adolescent group meeting.
* * *
The morning I have described was not completely smooth; it was unlikely to be. Progress was certainly made in some areas and new problems arose in others. Some anticipated problems were not adequately dealt with. However, for about an hour and a half four people worked consciously as a team. Trust and discipline were required, and planning and organisation were well practised parts of their work.
It had not always been so. John and Sue, now experienced and able to co-ordinate a day, had learned to do so by watching others and by participating in the process. Terry and Ann were not yet at the stage where they were able to co-ordinate but each time they worked they took a part in planning their work and monitoring it, and would eventually be expected to take on the coordinator's role. Organisation, planning and monitoring provide a framework for effective group and individual care, and time is made for special needs.
Social Work Today 3(45)