Privileged glimpses 16: Support is meaningless all by itself

This series of blog posts first appeared a few years ago on a now defunct blog called ‘Care Training’. It was inspired by the training maxim of ‘making the unconscious conscious’. It is intended to take what really ought to be the most basic principles of health and social care and put them down on paper. The series isn’t only an exercise in stating the obvious though whatever the title might suggest. It’s actually intended as a philosophical foundation manual for workers and informal carers to help them get their care ‘on track’ and then to keep it that way.

SupportThe word ‘support’ is meaningless in and of itself. Not the activity – just the word. It’s meaningless for care providers to talk about support unless they then go on to say what they will actually do – what ‘support’ means in this context. Does it mean sending a letter of approval to the local paper, clapping or simply smiling benignly? Or does it mean something more tangible?

In my training I often ban the word altogether. That gets people actually to think instead of just trotting out tired old cliches. It’s sad to see how many people will confidently state that they’ll offer support as though that solves the problem but when pressed have no idea about what is really required.

Support is a nice, warm, fluffy word but in itself it doesn’t really mean anything more than good intent.

If you work in social care or health care then let me make a suggestion. Stop saying ‘support’ because it lulls us into a false sense of competence and when other people use the word immediately stop them and ask them just what that support will be.

Oh yes – and be prepared for some very experienced and knowledgeable looking people to be unable to answer you.

Sad isn’t it?

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