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November 11, 2023

Reducing Risk When Accessing Community Services 

5 strategies to support working with community services to transform visits into positive experiences.

While we may not exactly relish the experience of visiting community services such as the dentist, doctor or optician, we appreciate that it is a necessary part of keeping ourselves well, and understand that routine appointments are part and parcel of daily life.

However, for the individuals we support, accessing community services can be fraught with fear and anxiety, often triggering behaviour that needs support. No matter what type of setting we work in, we need to consider how we can reduce risk and support our service users when they need to access different community services.

Unfamiliar environments as a trigger

Let’s be honest: most community service providers are not the most welcoming of environments. More often than not, and through no fault of their own, reception staff are run off their feet and do not always have the time to engage in anything other than transactional dialogue – checking us in, taking details, directing us to waiting areas, and so on.

Then there are the waiting rooms. Even the most thoughtfully-designed ones are typically decked out with uncomfortable furniture, with chairs either too far apart (a legacy of Covid-19) or too close together. They tend to be blindingly bright or unfathomably dark and, at peak times, can become crowded, chaotic and noisy – less than ideal for individuals with sensory needs.

And it is not just the waiting rooms; once we reach the consulting room or surgery, we are confronted by a plethora of scary-looking equipment and bombarded by dozens of strange and unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells. Just imagine how overwhelming it must be for someone with auditory sensitivity, having to be in the same room as a dentist’s drill!

All of these factors can be incredibly intimidating for the individuals we care for, so it is little wonder that such visits can lead to challenging situations and behaviour that needs support.

Supporting individuals on visits

In an ideal world, our service users would be familiar with every community service environment and attended to by the same practitioner on every visit; someone with whom they could forge a strong relationship built on trust.

The reality is, however, that because such visits are few and far between (unless someone has a chronic condition, for example, that requires regular check-ups), there is limited opportunity to become accustomed to the different surroundings. Staff turnover and varied work schedules also mean that there is no guarantee of seeing the same professional every time, making it very difficult to build a rapport.

Whilst we cannot remove all of the barriers and challenges associated with accessing community services, there are steps we can take to minimise the likelihood of behaviour, reduce the risk of harm, and transform visits into a positive experience for our service users and accompanying staff members.

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