Being a keyworker in residential child care


By Jane Kenny

Originally posted on

Sunday, 13 June 2010

As I believe is the case with most people who work in residential
child care I started working with the children and young people in the
hope and with the belief that I could make a positive difference to the
lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged young people. This did not prepare
me for the tough job ahead and I did not even guess just how hard it
was going to be to achieve my goal.

Since the 1960s an important aspect of a residential child care
worker’s role has been keyworking. It is also perhaps the most
intrinsically rewarding aspect of being a residential child care worker
but when you start the job nothing can fully prepare you for the
difficulties that lie ahead as you begin to work with young people who
have come from emotionally impoverished backgrounds and whose lives have
so far, to say the least, been very difficult.

Alex is a fictional name for the young person I discuss and details
of his life have been substantially altered. For brevity’s sake I have
referred to young people as masculine and workers as feminine.


Keep reading

A post received from Forum member David Lane

I have just read the piece on keyworking, and
it reminded me of the introduction of keyworking into the homes for
older people in Hillingdon in the late 1970s. It was at a time when
weekly-paid care assistants and senior care assistants were changed into
monthly-paid residential workers and senior residential workers. The
transformation of the work in the homes was amazing. The senior
residential workers voluntarily took on more responsibilities and started
to introduce new ideas. Several later on took the CSS and were
promoted. The residential workers took greater interest in the residents
for whom they were keyworkers, for example in taking the initiative to
contact their families and discuss how the residents might best be cared
for. This resulted in a much higher rate of contact; families who had
felt guilty about dumping their elderly relative in a home, and who
therefore avoided visiting, were instead involved in their care and
found visiting satisfying. With the needs of individual residents as the
focus, the ways in which homes were run were reshaped to meet those
needs. In my opinion, the homes had always been well and efficiently
run, but the keyworking realigned the working methods of the homes to be
more resident-centred. From a managerial perspective, we obviously
introduced keyworking and the new conditions of service because we
thought they were the right thing to do, but the outcome was quite

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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