An organisation is only as good as the service it is able to provide. The real measure of which is how its staff respond to the most challenging situations. If things fail at such crisis points the consequences are most keenly felt by the service users themselves. Sometimes the outcomes can personally catastrophic for such individuals. So, can such performance failures be avoided?

Just this week an Ofsted report into Lancashire's care system said its child care services had "significantly deteriorated" since the last inspection in 2012. Amongst its conclusions was the fact that complex work had been allocated to staff with insufficient qualifications or experience. In effect they were not competent for the job at hand. Ironically the report went on to praise the council for the way in which children were listened to, and the way the risks of child sexual exploitation were tackled by staff.

This highlights a paradox. The three finely tuned strands of competence, namely attitude, knowledge and skill, can be highly developed in relation to a very complex task but not in relation to a neighbouring and equally sensitive one. The question is why?

Everything starts with ‘Task Analysis’. What is actually involved in the reality of the defined task? Off-the-shelf training solutions that don’t cover the totality of the competency required are often responsible for building in ‘failure’ from the outset. To ensure you don’t fall into such a trap you need to make sure your in-house training team, or external training provider are undertaking full and thorough analysis prior to developing course content. This is typically evidenced by a dialogue punctuated by lots of questions such as What? Where?, When? and How? rather than a stony silence.

Training delivery is another critical point where competency levels dips, as quality is lost. This can be seen most clearly when it comes to staff being taught to fully understand the parameters of ‘discretion’ in relation to managing challenging behaviour, or challenging situations. What staff require is clarity; the ability to navigate the vagaries of ‘grey’ in a world that is not always ‘black’ and ‘white’. This is something that is facilitated by a trainer who is able to answer the many and varied questions raised in relation to various legal, ethical and practical dilemmas. Such questions serve informally to bridge any personal or individuated knowledge gaps. These are unique to each learner, and often only come to light in the moment, so all the more need for a competent trainer/facilitator. A good starting point is an individual who has extensive frontline experience. This should be evident if you review the CV’s of those earmarked to step into the training breach. Ask yourself; have they performed under such conditions? This can be followed up with qualifying questions of your own.

On a practical note any physical intervention skills should be delivered in accordance with those training schemes that were recognised by the Department of health in the 2014 document: ‘Positive & Proactive Care’. These schemes include the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) Physical Intervention Accreditation Scheme (PIAS) and the Institute of Conflict Managements (ICM) Quality Award centre.

Finally there comes the challenge of sustaining a culture back in the work setting, which values and rewards the right type of working performance. You have only to look back at the vivid film footage of Winterbourne View captured by Panorama to see the catastrophic effects of a toxic working culture. This highlights the wider issue of suitability and the need for a robust pre-screening and recruitment process. It also highlights the need for competence supervisors and managers. This brings us back full circle to task analysis and understanding training needs, and task analysis. The bottom line is that there is no substitute to good preparation, and no fast route to the sort of competency that underpins high quality care and support. Make sure you get it right first time.

SecuriCare offer a range of courses designed to enable support workers, carers and foster families to best respond to any ‘Challenging Behaviour’ that may occur. All programmes are finalised after full training needs analysis and delivered by experienced frontline practitioners. Click to see our ‘Preventing & Managing Challenging Behaviour’ Course which includes ‘Positive Behaviour Management’ techniques designed to minimise the need for any kind of restrictive intervention. You can also take a look at our person centred Behaviour Planning Service.