The purpose of the paper is to define and discuss the role of case conferences. The essay will focus on a specific scenario and use it to analyse the roles involved in case conferences and the process of decision-making. The paper will also examine the legal framework applied in the case by describing relevant policies and showing how they impacted the case conference.
The role of the multidisciplinary team will also be evaluated, with specific attention paid to the part of the social worker involved in the case. Finally, implications for the individual and their family will be addressed. Since case conferences are often complex and involve multiple perspectives, it is useful to examine how information about them can be delivered to the individual and how the parties involved can provide support throughout the process.
Case conferences are widely applied as part of the decision-making process in social work and related areas. According to the definition provided by Graham et al. (2017), a case conference is “a multi-agency meeting convened to share information following an investigation and to generate a consensus regarding the analysis of risk present” (p. 262).
Besides risk analysis, case conferences are typically used to agree on a future protection plan and distribute responsibilities between different agencies involved (Graham et al., 2017). This makes case conferences essential to safeguarding practice in the United Kingdom since they require sufficient coordination of activities across various agencies in order to generate an effective response (Giordano and Neville, 2015; Graham et al., 2016; Norrie et al., 2014; Penhale, 2020). The main goal of a case conference is thus to facilitate safeguarding activities by assessing the case, exploring options and defining the solution.
The scenario selected for the paper involves elder abuse, which is a significant problem in the United Kingdom and many other countries. Elderly persons are considered to be among the key risk groups for abuse since they are often dependent on caregivers and have limited resources (Soltan, 2018).
As a result, older adults are overrepresented in safeguarding cases (Braye and Preston-Shoot, 2017). In the present scenario, the client is Mrs Woodward, a 90-year-old woman who lives in a house with a lodger. Her daughter, who currently lives in Australia, alerted the safeguarding team that Mrs Woodward is abused by the lodger, who had borrowed a significant sum of money from her and refused to return it. The woman was contacted by a social worker; the police and GP were also involved in the case.
Following the initial investigation, it was found that the lodger was also abusing Mrs Woodward physically, although he denied the allegations. A case conference was carried out, during which it was decided that the lodger had to be removed from the accommodation. The case was resolved with the help of the multidisciplinary team, and Mrs Woodward reported improved confidence and independence during the follow-up call.
In the United Kingdom, there are various policies that support the process of adult safeguarding. Ensuring that the actions of the multidisciplinary team are in compliance with these policies is essential for the process to be successful. In the present case, the primary pieces of legislation that were applied was the 2014 Care Act and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (Betts, Marks-Maran and Morris-Thompson, 2014). The present section will seek to describe these policies and discuss their application in the given scenario.
First of all, the 2014 Care Act is the primary policy guiding the safeguarding process in the United Kingdom. The legislation improved the coordination of activities related to safeguarding by stipulating the duties, powers, and procedures of various agencies involved (Care Act 2014, 2014; Preston-Shoot, 2014). In the present case, the act was applied to establish the need for a safeguarding inquiry, as well as to guide the work of the safeguarding team. Hence, this policy assisted local authorities in resolving the case, thus fulfilling its intended purpose.
Because Mrs Woodward has a mental health condition and is of old age, the Mental Capacity Act of 2005 was also relevant to the case. Decision-making capacity is a crucial factor in safeguarding procedures because it is essential to prioritise the individual’s interests while also protecting their autonomy. For this reason, safeguarding decisions typically take into account the wishes of the individual, provided that they possess the mental capacity required to understand the situation and participate in decision-making (Penhale, 2020; Preston-Shoot, 2014).
Under the Mental Capacity Act of 2005, “a person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that he lacks capacity” and “a person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help him to do so have been taken without success” (Mental Capacity Act 2005, sec. 1). It is evident that principles were applied in the case since the team took into account the client’s wishes and respected her autonomy while providing the necessary support.
Based on the description above, it is evident that relevant legislative documents serve as a framework for decision-making throughout the safeguarding process. Consequently, these legal documents apply to case conferences since they are essential to the initiation and planning of safeguarding procedures. In the present case, the legislation supported the team in starting a safeguarding inquiry, defining the risk posed by the lodger to Mrs Woodward and planning the solution to the issue.
Role of the Multidisciplinary Team
Multidisciplinary teams involved in the safeguarding process involve various actors that contribute to safeguarding and are involved in case evaluation and planning. These include social workers, care providers and other relevant persons. Multidisciplinary teams are instrumental to safeguarding since they allow viewing the situation from multiple angles, gathering the data required to create an informed plan and ensuring that the individual’s needs are met.
Case conferences involving multidisciplinary teams are essential to bringing diverse perspectives and knowledge into the decision-making process, thus improving case outcomes.
It can be argued that the effectiveness of case conferences rests in part on the fact that they engage multidisciplinary professionals in the process of evaluation and planning. This enables actors to contribute in-depth information that could help the case, going beyond written reports in their assessments and suggestions (Brodie and Knight, 2014; Hesjedal et al., 2015).
In addition, case conferences involving diverse professionals can contribute to the quality, coordination and continuance of support provided to the client (Brodie and Knight, 2014; Hesjedal et al., 2015). The process of decision-making is also expedited through the use of case conferences because communication between various actors occurs on the spot.
These benefits make case conferences crucial to safeguarding in the United Kingdom. In the present case, the case conference helped to achieve a positive outcome by bridging the knowledge of different team members and facilitating the discussion of options available to Mrs Woodward. Consequently, the case conference contributed to the team’s understanding of the issue and the various options considered as solutions.
In connection with the topic, the role of multidisciplinary teams in safeguarding should also be discussed to highlight the need for them. The main goal of multidisciplinary teams in providing support to vulnerable groups is to coordinate the efforts of various agencies involved in safeguarding (Brodie and Knight, 2014; Hesjedal et al., 2015; Norrie et al., 2017).
By facilitating communication and collaboration across agencies, multidisciplinary teams can achieve better outcomes, thus enhancing outcomes of cases (Hesjedal et al., 2015; Norrie et al., 2017; Ndoro, 2014). The roles of multidisciplinary teams in relation to safeguarding cases are thus diverse and depend on the actors involved. At the foundational level, these teams are involved in analysing the case to identify the level of risk to the client, determining the need for additional action, such as reporting a crime to the police, defining the scope of support required by the client and their eligibility and developing a plan for resolving the case (Hesjedal et al., 2015; Norrie et al., 2017).
In fulfilling these roles, multidisciplinary teams require consistent communication. Barriers to communication can have a negative impact on the work of multidisciplinary teams, thus impairing case outcomes. Communication barriers that affect multidisciplinary teams are rather widespread and include the poor flow of information, hierarchal structures within the team, lack of teamwork experience and organisational obstacles like frequent staff rotation (Weller, Boyd and Cumin, 2014). Identifying and addressing these communication barriers can contribute to safeguarding decision-making and case analysis, thus enhancing the results of multidisciplinary teams’ work.
Social workers are among the primary actors in the safeguarding process, and thus they are important members of multidisciplinary teams. According to Jones (2014), social workers’ roles have evolved over the past decades, and today, their formal role in assessment and support planning is supported by client advocacy. Therefore, social workers’ main role in case conferences and the safeguarding process as a whole is to ensure that any decisions made are in client’s best interests (Helm, 2016).
Social workers communicate closely with clients and their families, which offers them unique access to information about the situation, thus supporting their perspective in decision-making (Manthorpe et al., 2014; O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2016). During case conferences, this information can become crucial to support planning and risk assessment. Overall, social workers’ duties and their involvement with clients and families support their role in the safeguarding process as a whole, including in case conferences.
Implications for the Individual and Their Family
Decisions made as a result of case conferences have significant implications for clients and their family members. Taking positive and negative implications into account can help multidisciplinary teams in understanding the client’s perspective on the safeguarding process and make the adjustments necessary to make it more comfortable and smoother for the client. This could help to establish and maintain a trusting relationship between the client and the actors of multidisciplinary teams while also contributing to case outcomes.
First of all, it is essential to note that clients have to be provided with information about case conferences so that they could understand the process involved in their case. Provision of information related to case conferences supports clients’ participation in the safeguarding process and is part of the duties of the multidisciplinary team (Graham et al., 2017; Graham et al., 2017; O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2016).
Upon hearing about the case conference, clients may have additional questions for members of the multidisciplinary team. For instance, they could require clarification of their own role in the process or of the decisions that will be made during the conference. Therefore, the best option for delivering information about the process of the case conference is through face-to-face conversation or a call. In this way, the client would have an opportunity to ask any questions about the upcoming case conference or clarify their concerns.
Social workers or other members of the multidisciplinary teams who communicate with clients can take part in providing this information since they understand the process in great depth and are involved in it. Similarly, family members or caregivers taking part in the case should be given all the necessary information about the conference to support their involvement. If multiple family members are involved, it is best to speak to them individually so that they could ask the necessary questions and process the information appropriately.
Secondly, the process of the case conference involving the client or their family requires offering additional support to the individual. Hence, it is necessary to outline the strategies that could be used to support individuals during the case conference and explore the feelings that they might have about it. Participating in a case conference can force the individual to reveal information that makes them uncomfortable, such as details of abuse or other relevant information (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2016).
Remembering traumatic events can cause individuals to feel a range of emotions from sadness to indignation. To help clients and their family members during a case conference, social workers and other actors should encourage them to reveal as many details as they are comfortable with while also allowing them to take more time or a short break when needed. This could help individuals to overcome their emotions and feel that they are an important part of the case conference, thus supporting their relationships with other actors.
Additionally, clients participating in case conferences require other types of support, including information. For instance, they might need clarification regarding certain parts of the process or the plan developed during the conference. Clients whose primary language is not English could also require language support while taking part in the case conference (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2016). Making these adjustments can help to make the process more comfortable for clients, which would have a positive impact on the conference as a whole.
Clients’ and their families’ response to outcomes achieved during the case conference should also be taken into account since they can experience negative feelings about the assessment or the support plan developed by the team. In this case, two separate approaches are required to support these parties. On the one hand, clients should be supported in taking part in decision-making to promote their autonomy and independence.
This means that individuals should be encouraged to share their concerns or opinions of the outcomes of the conference throughout the process and to contribute their thoughts and perspective on the situation. This would help to ensure collaboration between all parts involved in the case conference while also making the process easier for the client. Furthermore, the client’s perspective can offer additional insight required by the team to create an effective solution to the situation.
On the other hand, families’ feelings should also be acknowledged and appreciated. If their feelings about the outcomes or the assessment are negative, family members should receive a full justification of the decision that would clarify how it was achieved and what their options are for arguing their position.
On the whole, the chosen scenario provides valuable insight into the process of safeguarding in the United Kingdom and the role that case conferences play in it. The analysis of the case shows that the team relied on two main legal documents: the 2014 Care Act and the Mental Capacity Act of 2005, which supported their decision-making throughout the case. These documents are essential to safeguarding older adults since they establish roles and procedures involved in the process.
The further evaluation also explained the role of the multidisciplinary team in the case. By combining the perspectives of various actors, multidisciplinary teams facilitate a more in-depth assessment of the case and promote the client’s interests during case conferences and other parts of the safeguarding process. However, it is essential for multidisciplinary teams to identify and manage barriers to communication to achieve these benefits.
Finally, the paper also reflected the implications of case conferences for individuals and their families, highlighting how both parties can be supported throughout the process. By delivering complete information, encouraging participation and making necessary adjustments for the client, the multidisciplinary team can promote trust and make the process of a case conference as comfortable as possible for the client.
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