Visualising the leaving care service
This post is about the rationale behind visualising the leaving care service. It’s rather long scrolling wise because there are a lot of images in it, so if you’d like to jump to certain sections the post has been broken down into: Why did I visualise the service? What being able to see the service made me think about, and at the ends asks, What does being able to see this service make you think about?
Why did I visualise the service?
As part of my literature review of the Leaving Care service in Scotland I came across the Scottish Government’s ‘Regulations and Guidance on Services for Young People Ceasing to be Looked After by Local Authorities’ (2004). This publication explains why and how young people leaving care in Scotland are to be supported. At this time I was only using literature to support my knowledge of the service, as I have no direct experience of the service myself, so this publication became my ‘go to’ in terms of understanding how the service works.
As I don’t have a social services background I experienced several problems reading the document. For example:
- the use of jargon and legal words meant I had to create a glossary of terms to understand what the document meant.
- the publication was written for people who work for local authorities, therefore it assumes the reader has knowledge of the systems and services that operate to support children and families or leaving care services. This meant I had to figure out what the roles and responsibilities of these system and services and are and how they work with the leaving care service (I’ll leave this to another blog post).
- the publication referred to people but did so in a quantitative way, statistically, through categorisation and using legal terms. This created distance for me as a reader which (although I understand the rational behind this use of terminology) I found frustrating and almost ironic when the service only exists through the quality of human interaction. As a result I had to create profiles of the people the publication refer too so I had a more human reference point.
However what was really missing for me in this document was how all the roles, responsibilities, legal implications, prerequisites, regulations and guidance fitted together into a process in which people engage, and what the expected outcomes of these interactions are.
My response to this was to visualise the service process, mapping the stages, people who are involved at each stage, where they interact and the materials they use to facilitate and record these interactions. An overview of this process can be seen in this posts main image, a short explanation of the service is provided below, followed by a break down of what happens at each stage of the service.
What being able to see the service made me think about
After creating each of these process maps I felt I better understood the process workers and young people tend to go through. I verified my understanding by showing this process map to Leaving Care Service Managers and workers who commented on what I had created, what was missing and what I had misunderstood. However this map not only provided me with a conceptual visualisation of the leaving are service process, it also acted as a tool I could use when talking to Managers and workers about the service.
For example I was able to use the map when asking questions such as: What happens if a care leaver does not want to engage with the service? How are decisions made between young people and workers? What happens before/after these decisions are made? This not only provided me with more detailed knowledge about the service, it also enabled me to feel that when I was talking to a Manager or worker we were discussing the same sub-process in a particular stage of the service. Important I think when I am not experienced in the provision of this service and through jargon or lack of knowledge could end up thinking we were talking about one part of the service delivery when a worker may be discussing another. However the process map did not only provide me with reassurance and clarity on the subject, it also enabled me to discuss what would happen after certain decisions were made at different stages in service provision.
Social services work to provide a personalised service for each individual. Workers are responding to different needs with different kinds of support, therefore how the service is delivered deviates considerably from the conceptual map I have created. What the conceptual map enabled in this instance was for me to follow the kind of decisions that are made by young people or workers at certain stages in the service and what these decisions mean to subsequent stages in the service provision. This helped me build up a much richer picture of how workers tend to work and more about the young people they are working with.
However, this process of creating a visual map to understand a process and use it to ask questions about this process is not for everyone. I’d be really interested to know what other people think of this process, what you may have done differently and what being able to see the service makes you think about or question. Please let me know.