Task Focused Working

By Lesley Tait, Head of Quality Assurance and Best Practice.

What does it mean to be task focused and what can we do to break that cycle?

I have been in a few Care Inspections feedback sessions where the inspectors have suggested that at times team members can be too task focused (especially during lunch time).

Let’s have a wee look at this.

What does task focused mean?

The definition is “getting the job done.”

If I strip back what the Care Inspectors mean when they are saying that at times team members can be task focused, and I am going to use lunchtimes as the example.

We have been actively encouraging our team at FCSS, that during lunchtimes there should be no team members going on their lunch.   This is to ensure that the children have our team there to encourage the children to eat, to encourage them in conversation, trying new foods etc, but also having a home setting.

There is also the very important factor for children who have allergies, preferences, medical and dietary requirements, that they have the full attention and support from the team to ensure that they are safe during lunchtime.

Areas to consider from the Care Inspectorate’s practice notes include:

  • How do you know what your roles and responsibilities are for ensuring that mealtimes are a safe and sociable experience for everyone?
  • How do you ensure that children are safe? For example, food is being served at the right temperature and there are no risks of choking.
  • How do you ensure that you are aware of children’s dietary needs and requirements including allergens and cultural needs?
  • How sure are you that you can respond to any emergency incidents appropriately?
  • How often do leaders observe mealtimes to ensure that children and adults enjoy eating together in an unhurried and relaxed atmosphere?
  • How do you ensure that adults are deployed to support children effectively, making sure that they are safe, and mealtimes are a nurturing and social experience?
  • What communication systems are in place to ensure that information is shared with everyone who needs to know in respect of dietary needs and requirements?

There is a lot to think about, and I do not have all the answers, but we, as a team and as a sector, need to look at how the children have your full attention during their lunchtime experience but also how we manage to get all the other “tasks” done!

The feedback from the Care Inspectors suggests that during lunchtime, it is great, but as lunchtime is beginning to conclude, the teams can become less focused on the children and their experience and become more focused on the jobs of clearing and tidying up….task focused…

Thinking about the above what can we do?

  • Can you have one team member sitting at each table with the children and one team member undertaking all the tasks?
  • Can the children help at the end of lunchtime with clearing and tidying up?
  • Have you thought about getting in volunteers for over the lunchtime period to help?  They must get a PVG too before volunteering and would never be left alone as there would always be a team member with them.  They would be supported with specific training for allergies etc. 
  • Do you do open lunch that the children can choose when they come for lunch?  This would mean that there is not one time for all the “tasks” to be undertaken.
  • Can you have smaller groups of children having lunch at one time.  Can some go outside?
  • How do you all get lunch yourselves?  What do all the other services do?

This is just the start of our journey with a group that we have started called “Making Mealtimes Matter”, where we have open and honest conversations about matters like this. 

What are your thoughts and ideas on this and how do we move forward?  Get in contact with any suggestions that we could discuss at the MMM group.  Lesley.tait@fcss.org.uk or there is someone from each service in the group, have a wee discussion with them and they can bring your ideas to the group.

elc-practice-note-4-mealtimes.pdf (careinspectorate.com)