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Kate Blake, Co-founder of the Edith Ellen Foundation explains the ethos behind the Foundation's Kindness Audit

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Kindness – isn’t it fundamental to the ‘caring professions’?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines kindness as ‘the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate’ and one of its synonyms is ‘care’ so surely kindness is part-and-parcel of good practice in care. Unfortunately, not. Providing good care is not always compatible with balancing the books. How can you ensure considerate care with fewer staff and more people to care for?

The focus of our work at the Edith Ellen Foundation is to promote kindness in integrated holistic care, prevent abuse, neglect, and social isolation and champion services that are provided with kindness and compassion for our elderly, frail and vulnerable members of our communities. We do this by:

  • Providing services, including advocacy, advice and information
  • Sponsoring or undertaking research
  • Acting as an umbrella or resource body.

We have listened to people, analysed all the relevant legislation and guidelines, and researched views and writing on what good care looks (and feels) like. We have brought all this knowledge together and one of the results of this is our Kindness Audit, which together with our Kindness Charter and Kindness Training Model for Skills, aims to combine kinder care while recognising the need to balance it with profitability and/or sustainability. We want to create better working environments for those who work in care and a better experience for those being cared for.

The Kindness Audit aims to identify, celebrate, share and embed good practice in care to improve trust, safety, understanding to those who require care and those who provide it. We want to bring people together, find new thinking and fresh ideas and achieve the kind of care where understanding, respect and value for people is at its core. The Audit aims to achieve:

  • a caring environment that feels safe, friendly and calm
  • that people being cared for feel protected and supported
  • staff responsible for caring have a say in what good care looks like.

What is the Kindness Audit? 

The Kindness Audit is a review of the way a care home feels, operates and succeeds. Nationally it defines a standard of quality of care.

We have developed the Audit’s methodology with reference to the Social Care Institute of Excellence Dignity Factors and Dementia Gateway and to the University of East Anglia and other universities’ Choice and Respect research programme. We believe it is ideally placed to translate these theories into practice and contribute to improving care.The audit measures how effective communication is between staff and management and how they behave in the workplace.

In a nutshell, it is asking management/leaders how kind they are to each other, to their staff and to the people they look after, and encourages them to create positive working environments. The Audit aims to link the quality of care to knowing and understanding the people cared for, so that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not taken, and instead allows people in care as much independence as possible, enabling them to continue to connect with their families, friends and local communities. 

The Audit’s methodology measures 11 outcomes:

  • Leadership
  • Control and choices
  • Communication
  • Eating and nutrition
  • Hydration
  • Pain management
  • Personal hygiene
  • Practical assistance
  • Privacy
  • Social inclusion
  • Dementia.

The Audit also looks at the quality of the employment relationship, and looks for leaders who connect, communicate and create harmonious working relationships; training, education and development that furnishes staff with confidence and all-round skills; a  supportive working environment that is dedicated and open to improvement, staff taking responsibility for their own performance and being allowed to develop professionally; and a healthy workplace that values, supports, engages with and motivates its staff, boosting their morale and workplace satisfaction and ensuring they understand the purpose of their job and the contribution they make.

Do you like what you see?

The Audit basically holds a mirror up, encourages a good look at what is staring back and asks – are you happy with it:

  • Are our services truly good enough?
  • Do we truly listen to our service users and their families?
  • Are we all communicating and working together in unison?
  • Do we always ensure it is our people, not routines which are put at the front of nursing and care?
  • Do we do it every day?
  • What more can we do together to improve?

Self-assessment or on-site evaluation

The audit provides a benchmark and it can be carried out either as a self-assessment or the Edith Ellen Foundation offers an in-depth two-day assessment.

Going forwards – holistic kindness in care

The Kindness Audit helps us to understand how people in care cope. When we are very busy, it is easy to ‘assume’ what people want rather than ‘ask’ them. By listening to people on the receiving end of care, we can understand their fears and ask them ‘what could we do to improve?’. We will probably find that their answer will be: ‘to be treated kindly would be a good place to start.’

Copyright: Kate Blake, November 2017

You can find out more about the Edith Ellen Foundation and the Kindness Audit from their website.