I will be providing a guide to group activities in a social care setting. This guide will examine the practical uses, benefits and also the reasons for using group activities in a social care setting.
According to Coru their definition of social care is as follows: “Social care work is a relationship-based approach to the purposeful planning and provision of care, protection, psychosocial support and advocacy in partnership with vulnerable individuals and groups who experience marginalisation, disadvantage or special needs” (Social Care Ireland, 2019).
As you can imagine, this definition results in vast potential career opportunities for social care workers. Disability services, Youth services, Traveller services, Residential care work, support workers and LGBT support services to name but a few. As the work we do is relationship based, it is vital that we equip ourselves with the knowledge of building positive and trusting relationships with our clients. A great way to help you develop this skill is by facilitating group activities for the group of people you are working with.
Principles and Values of Facilitation
Facilitators must demonstrate their commitment, verbally and non-verbally in the following ways:
- Listening to what others are saying and tuning into what they’re not saying.
- Confidentiality is important for participants to be able to partake fully. It can never be fully promised but it should be discussed and outlined.
- Respect and acknowledge each individual and prevent other group members disrespecting each other.
- Equality: ensuring that each person is regarded as having equal rights to participate.
- Each member’s contribution to a discussion / skill-sharing activity should be valid and valuable.
- Agreed Goals must be shared in order to develop a belief in and sense of ownership to the group.
- Giving attention to how the group operates. Resolving any difficulties or conflicts the group might have.
- Trust and safety ensures maximum participation.
- Inclusion and encouragement: everyone in the group must be included and encouraged to participate.
- The importance of a positive/ beneficial experience: it is important to meet realistic needs of the group to ensure a positive experience in the group (Prentiville, 1995, p. 15).
The Benefits of Groups Activities
Group Activities is not only fun, but it has a whole host of underlying advantages for the facilitator, for the participants and for society as a whole. If facilitated correctly, group activities can be used as a therapeutic way to train yourself in the following areas.
Through group activities both the facilitator and the group members can develop many personal development skills. They include building one’s self-esteem, confidence, interpersonal skills, assertiveness, self-awareness and self-empowerment. As these skills are improved it improves the quality of life for the participant and helps them become comfortable in their own skin and less afraid of being authentic in society.
Developing New Skills
By trying something new you can always learn a new practical skill or enhance skills you already had. For some it may be enhancing their communication skills or maybe something a little more practical like learning how to make a paper airplane. Developing new skills gives people more confidence and enables them to be included in more practical tasks in society.
Group activities helps break social barriers and aids us to build trust, bonds and lasting relationships instead. The Guardian (2016) states that this gives people a sense of belonging and improves mental health and personal wellbeing. This will help users to develop positive relationships with their families and peers and also promote them to become more involved in their communities.
How to Prepare
In order to create an environment where those in your care feel comfortable expressing themselves during an activity, Lyons (2010) & Prendiville (1995) suggest that the facilitator must prepare efficiently by gathering some of the following information.
- How many people are in the group?
- What are their ages?
- What are their genders?
- Have they experienced group activities before?
- What materials have they worked with?
- What do the group want to achieve
- What are their interests?
- What are their weaknesses?
- Are they verbal? Do they speak your language?
- Do they have any intellectual, physical or psychological needs?
- Do the group members know each other? Get along well?
- How long should the activity last?
- What do you want to achieve?
Group activities can be used to achieve numerous objectives. Sometimes the organisation that caters for your group will have specific themes they want you to work with. If they do then perfect, you’ve already established the needs of the group. If they haven’t provided this information, then you must evaluate the needs of the group you are working with and choose and adapt an activity to suit them (Lyons, 2010, p. 20). If for example you’re working with a group from Western Care and you discover that they recently gained a new member in the group, you could plan a name game to help them introduce themselves to each other. This also helps the users to get to know the facilitator. Similarly, if you are working with a group of youths for example, they may know each other but you may discover that they lack some self-confidence that you would like to help them improve on. You could boost their self-esteem and confidence by getting them to recognise and share a positive comment about one another in an activity.
What to Consider When Choosing an Activity
There are many things to consider when you’re choosing the activity you wish to facilitate. As Lyons (2010; p.22) states: “The effort you put into planning your activity, the manner in which you prepare the room and the way you interact during your introduction will impact on how ‘cared for’ your participants feel and the extent to which they speak and trust you”. it is important that you choose an activity that you have a genuine interest in because that makes it much easier to convince others to participate. The abilities and interests of the group should always be in the front of your mind but also the available space you have to work with, are there any potential hazards or safety risks you need to assess? What materials do you need for your activity? It is also vital that you know your limitations of facilitation. Facilitation has therapeutic benefits, but it is not a therapy group. Appropriate and relevant boundaries must be developed and maintained within the group you are working with (Prentiville, 1995; pp. 15-16).
Prepare and Practice Your Activity
Once you have picked your activity, it is a good idea to write it down in a clear and simple way so that you can use it as an aid in explaining the activity to the users. This helps your facilitation skills on the day. In order to be sure that your activity is going to work well as intended it is also good to practice putting your activity into motion in your private life with friends and family. This helps you practice your facilitation skills and it also gives you a good indication if the activity needs modifying or changing to better suit the group you intend on working with.
Use appropriate language for the group you are working with, making sure that everyone is understanding you as you speak. Make sure you have your activity summary with you for prompting or in case you fall into difficulty explaining the activity. Ask if everyone understand the task and also ask if they have any questions for you. Once everyone has a good understanding of the task you can organising the group to fit the task and proceed with your activity. The five stages you should take notice of depicting the needs of the group and the associated behaviours of members.
Conclusion and Reflection
Really good reflections can be therapeutic as they give participants an opportunity to consider and share what they have learned. Leave time after your activity to reflect and discuss the groups experiences. Initial questions can be simple for instance you could ask: ‘What materials have we worked with today?’. If you get a good vibe from the group and they’re willing to take part in the discussion then you could delve deeper and ask them how they felt when doing the task, what they liked and didn’t like about the task and maybe if they would change anything about the task. This gives the facilitator feedback to reflect on how the activity was perceived by the group and allows for further adjusting of the activity if necessary, for the next time the facilitator intends to use it. Always focusing on how you can make activities as relevant as possible to ensure the greatest personal benefits can be taken from it by all involved.
- Gaurdian, T. (2019, December 6). Thegaurdian.com. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/skills-for-care-partner-zone/2016/may/18/why-relationships-matter-in-social-care
- Lindsay, T., & Orton, s. (2014). Groupwork Practice in Social Work. Sage publications Ltd.
- Lyons, D. (2010). Creative Studies in the Caring Professions . Gill Education.
- Prentiville, P. (1995). Developing facilitation skills. Combat poverty agency.
- Social Care Ireland. (2019). CORU Registration . Retrieved from Social Care Ireland: https://socialcareireland.ie/coru-registration/