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This experience involved working with a group of 6 women with learning disabilities who live in an urban area of Wales. The group was set up to enable women with learning disabilities to improve their health and well-being. It provides equal opportunities by increasing their knowledge on how to be healthy and active like other women in Wales. The need for a healthy lifestyle is recognised in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1970) (Maclean & Harrison, 2008). The aims of the group are to increase the member’s confidence, promote healthy eating whilst developing and maintaining networks. Influencing personal, community and organisational problems which are consistent with The Fulfilled Lives and Supportive Community strategy introduced by the Welsh Assembly Government (2007)(Lindsey & Orton,2008). The main focus being social inclusion to achieve positive outcomes by working in partnership with other agencies (WG, 2007).
The women in the group were recognised as key contributors to the easy read leaflets/invite letters for all women in Wales, breaking down negative attitudes/stereotypes of people with learning disabilities. The group is peer led and provides support for members to learn from each other regarding women’s health and well-being. Payne (2000) suggests the purpose of multi-agency working is to plan, co-ordinate and deliver services the service user will benefit from. However, the Department of Health (Doh,1998) argues this system will fail the most vulnerable members of society including those with a learning disability. Within the Local Authority area in 2012/13 779 adults with learning disabilities live in the community and a further 113 live in a health service, local authority or private/voluntary residential setting (Welsh government, 2013).
Reaction to Event/Experience
I realised Group work would inform my practice although the forming stage had been carried out prior to my involvement. I felt I would need permission from the ladies to join the sessions for the following 6 weeks. This enabled me to gain the ladies trust and respect and allow them to feel safe and comfortable when discussing personal issues (Douglas, 1978) (CCW, 2002,). I felt quite comfortable introducing myself to the group having many years’ experience with adults with learning disabilities. Using the Johari window() enabled me to recognise I was not afraid of sharing personal information with the group as this would allow me to be accepted into the group and enable me to work in an anti-oppressive manner, (West & Turner, 2009).
Joining the group at the start of a 6 week intervention period I was able to identify the developments that needed to take place for the group to be successful. Tuckman (1965) suggest’s these are ; forming, storming, norming, performing and mourning. (Maclean & Harrison,2008).
The group participated in a storming session and were encouraged to make choices in activities they wish to join. Group work can be seen as a mutual aid to choice whereby all members of the group can benefit. Developing their knowledge through the support and interactions with each other (Lang, 1981).
I recognised System theory as an appropriate method of intervention as changes within a system can influence the application of this theory to practice (Vigars et al, 2008).
Maclean and Harrison (2008) suggest we operate within three systems; informal, formal and public systems. The group is a partnership initiative between social services, health and the voluntary sector and the ladies have forged links between Breast Awareness Wales, the police and education. I felt the women had come together to help inform practice and promote equality for all women with a learning disability. (CCW,2002, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, 6.4, 6.7: CCW, 2003, 2.3, 3.1, 6.1, 7.1, 7.2, 8.1).
I felt very proud of the ladies and being involved in the group. I could identify they have used the opportunity to build on their own friendships/networks as the group are now making arrangements to participate in community activities outside of the group. They have become concerned for each other and arrange to meet prior to the group, they show concern for each other and make enquires when a member does not attend the group.(CCW, 2002, 1.5).
I agree with Maclean and Harrison (2008) that we all rely on other people around us including family and friends making Systems theory a ‘human truth’ (Maclean & Harrison, 2008). However, Germain (1979) suggests it is too general and can be difficult to apply in certain circumstances which can be construed differently by different workers (Payne, 2005,b).
Identified learning & learning needs
I was able to reflect on the group in supervision and I could identify the group dynamics and behaviours that were taking place. This helped me to understand the need to not only present information to the group as a whole but to speak individually to the quieter members of the group to empower them and make their own choices.
I was able to identify my communication was a vital part of group work and Egan’s Skilled Helper approach enabled me to take into account the different levels of communication required within the group, taking into account the quieter members also had a voice and an opinion that needed to be heard (Egan,2010).
How might the learning needs be met?
Continuing to develop my knowledge of theories and how they can be put into practice to empower individuals. Using the Collingwood (2005) KIT framework will help me to understand the service users circumstances and enable me to identify the best form of interventions to provide the best form of intervention as using the wrong theory at the wrong tine could have a negative affect rather than a positive (Wright, et al, 2010).
Assessors signature of verification
Care Council for Wales (CCW) (2002). The Code of Practice for Social Care Workers. Cardiff: Care Council for Wales.
Care Council for Wales (CCW) (2003). National Occupational Standards for Social Work. Cardiff: Care Council for Wales.
Douglas, T. (1978). Basic Group Work. London: Routledge
Department of Health (DoH, 1998). Partnership in Action: New opportunities for jointworking between health and social services –A discussion document. London: Department of Health
Healy, K. (2005). Social Work Theories in context: Creating frameworks for Practice. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Johnsson, E. & Svensson, K. (2005). Theory in social work – some reflections on understanding and explaining interventions. British Journal of Social Work. Vol 8 (4) pp. 419-433.
Maclean, S. & Harrison, R. (2008) Social Work Theory A straightforward Guide for Practice Assessors and Placement Supervisors. Staffordshire: Kirwin Maclean associates Ltd.
Payne, M. (2000,a). Team Work in Multi-Professional Care. Basingstoke: MacMillan.
Payne, M. (2005,b). Modern Social Work Theory 3rd Edition. Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan
Vigars et al. (2008). Faculty of Health and Social Care: Aids of Practice Cards. The Open University.
West & Turner (2009) Understanding interpersonal Communication 3rd edition. USA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Wright, S, et al. (2012). Evaluation of Early Parental Intervention Pilot Project. XXXXX. Welsh Assembly Government. Retrieved from: http://www.scie-socialcareonline.org.uk/profile.asp?guid=13a77ca2-2f61-4dbc-a8b0-368ff694ffe1 [Accessed 23/10/2012].
Lindsey, T. & Orton, S. (2008). Group work Practice in Social Work: Transforming Social Work Practice. Exeter: Learning Matters
.Welsh Government. (2010). Fulfilled Lives Supportive Communities. Cardiff: Welsh Government
Welsh Government (2013) Stats Wales. Persons with learning disabilities by LA, service and age range. Retrieved 27/04/2014 from https://statswales.wales.gov.uk/Catalogue/Health-and-Social-Care/Social-Services/Disability-Registers/PersonsWithLearningDisabilities-by-LocalAuthority-Service-AgeRange
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