Employing friends and family in a care team - and why it's not a great idea...

26 March 2019

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If you need to recruit a team of people to support your child, the temptation to consider employing friends and family is completely understandable. You feel comfortable around these people, they understand and empathise with your situation and you trust them completely.

Sorry, but in our experience, this is not a good long term solution.

Our client is a 10-year-old boy, ‘Sam’. Sam was involved in a road traffic accident and sustained an acquired brain injury. He requires 24/7 care, which to date has been provided by his immediate family (mostly mum, ‘Mary’). Interim payments have been agreed, so recruiting for a care team can start.

The family are understandably traumatised by the situation, the thought of strangers looking after their son, in their home, provokes further anxiety. Just the idea of having to recruit feels like a full-time job.

A lifeline seems to be thrown when Sam’s aunt ‘Jenny’ offers to take on the role of team leader.

So Jenny takes on the role. She has two children of her own, so her working hours will be Monday to Friday, mostly in school hours, but her children attend several afterschool activities, so she’ll be able to give Sam direct care on those afternoons. She assists Mary to recruit an additional four support workers.

Initially the care package runs well, however, Mary notices that Jenny doesn’t always fill the diary in with as much detail as is required and sometimes, she is left to remind Jenny that Sam’s medication is running low.

Mary doesn’t want to rock the boat so says nothing, hoping things will sort themselves out. A few weeks later, however, Mary is approached by a support worker who says she has a complaint about the rota, which she feels is unfair.

She has requested not to work a specific weekend, but this has been refused by Team Leader, Jenny. It then transpires this request has been refused on 3 previous occasions. They discuss things further and Mary hears there are more ‘niggles’ about her sister; she seems to be treated differently to other team members, she always works the best shifts, (never a weekend or night) the other team members feel there are almost two teams, them, and Mary and Jenny.

So now Mary must decide how to deal with this. Will she risk spoiling her relationship with her sister and confront her?

This scenario was created using a mix of actual examples. Employing a relative or friend as a member of a support team creates an unnatural dynamic within a team. When things don’t run smoothly, it can be incredibly difficult to confront that person in the same way you would any other employee; your close relationship will always influence your responses. The rest of the team will see that person treated differently, even if it’s only an easiness between you that they won’t have. All this is likely to create a division and fractured team.

To create a robust, successful team, all the members in the team need to feel they are treated fairly and equally. Having the support of your family and friends is invaluable in its own right and potentially straining those relationships, in our opinion, just isn’t worth the risk. 

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