In 2019 we conducted our Mapping Relationships survey, to hear your thoughts about how we can improve and evaluate relationship-based practice across Scotland.

This was the first stage in a three-year project to support our members to develop relationship-based practices, which we know are vitally important to the development and wellbeing of care-experienced young people. 100 people from all over Scotland responded in total, and we’re delighted to share our findings with you.

Here are three things you need to know about building relationship-based practices.

Practitioners want to spend more time working directly with care-experienced young people – we need brave leadership to make it happen.

Our survey found that for 27 per cent of frontline workers, team leaders and senior leaders, the activity they spent the most time on during the working day was paperwork.

  • 42 per cent want more time to spend on directly working with young people. That equates to:
  • 36 per cent of frontline workers
  • 44 per cent of team leaders
  • 75 per cent of senior management

Further, 24 per cent said they spent a ‘significant amount of time’ each week on crisis management.

We can improve relationships between staff at all levels and young people by prioritising direct working with young people. Brave leadership is required in order to create a relationship-centred culture and system.

Workplace stress is relatively high, and this could have an effect on building relationships – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Relationships can only be built on solid foundations if the people building them work in a productive environment. However, we found that workplace stress amongst respondents is relatively high.

40 per cent said they were able to relax after work only ‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely’. One in three think about leaving their role (this number is higher for middle management) and 30 per cent say they are afraid of making mistakes. A few frontline workers said they were ‘always’ stressed, and also said they felt the least appreciated.

56 per cent of respondents say they felt supported most of the time, leaving 44 per cent who do not. Similarly, 52 per cent said they can be honest about their wellbeing at work, leaving 48 per cent who cannot.

The workforce does not only operate in a complex care system with complex emotions, but they are also human, and being human and working with other humans comes with some difficulties no matter the context. It is important to take staff seriously and treat them well, so that they are able to bring their wholeselves to work.

Working towards creating working environments where the needs of every employee are considered and everyone feels supported and valued would have a positive impact on our ability to build solid, foundational relationships with the young people we work with.

Relationships are fundamental to healing from trauma.

99 per cent of respondents said that relationships were important to their work, with only a single respondent disagreeing. This was a common view across frontline practitioners, team leaders and senior management.

Almost all respondents said that they believed there were ways to help young people to overcome trauma, and the majority wanted to learn more about trauma and how to incorporate trauma recovery mechanisms into their practice. Crucially, 99 per cent said that relationships can heal trauma.

The importance of building relationships is clear, as is the desire for relationship-based practices to be incorporated into working environments.

What’s next?

At Staf, we are creating a tool that will help frontline workers and organisations across the nation to prioritise relationships and improve their relational work. Throughout 2020 we met with the [Building Relationships Advisory Group- link] to bring together expertise from lived experience and the workforce. The next phase of the project will be launched at our national conference on the 17th of November.

Book your place at our National Conference here.