When is the right time for someone to move on from support?
Much traditional support work works to a tightly-defined timescale and has targets about ‘moving people on’.
Some services offer people a Catch 22 situation: on the one hand, we will become what may be the only supportive relationship in your life, in which you may be required to organise your life around that support, or even move into our building, but on the other hand you mustn’t feel dependent on us, and we will end that support and leave your life as dramatically as we entered it, on our terms and at a time of our choosing.
Mayday’s PTS strengths-based coaching, which we offer ourselves and support a growing network of othercharities to offer, has some core principles, and one is that people begin, pause and end their coaching as much as possible on their terms. So, coaching cannot be imposed, and it focuses on what feels most important to them at the time. It can be paused -if someone doesn’t want to see their coach for a while, we don’t regard that as ‘non-compliance’ or ‘close the case’; we are patient. And our aim is for the individual to reduce and end their coaching, having filled their life with more confidence, more meaningful relationships and activities, and a bigger support network outside of services.
Does this mean that people become dependent and never ‘move on’? Typically, no. People in one group of people living in temporary accommodation where amongst nearly 40 people there had been no move-ons in 4 years, coaching led to 14 move-ons in 14 months. In another, where 80% of supported people typically return to homelessness, 67% of people supported by Mayday moved completely outside of homeless support services. 8 months is a typical move-on time for this group. Coaches are in some cases able to manage bigger rather than smaller caseloads than other workers, because for every person who currently needs intensive help, there are others who have stepped back, or moved on.
So, by relinquishing control over support timelines, a service which offers effective support can reduce those timelines for moving on. By relinquishing the service’s anxieties about dependence, and trusting the power of more reciprocal, chosen and equal relationships, the risk of dependence can fall rather than rise, along with the risk that falling off a support ‘cliff edge’ breaks that person and sends them back into a new crisis, and new support needs.
One of my colleagues who coaches writes in response to this blog:
I’ve recently noticed with a couple of people I meet with that when we meet it’s not for as long. Because the pressure is taken away and the ball is in each person’s court they are empowered to actually be proud of the steps they are achieving (whatever that looks like for them) rather than worried about looking “worthy” of the help and support.