Handover and Team Meetings


The Leadership and Management Standard


  1. Shift Handover
  2. Team Meeting

1. Shift Handover

All staff in residential childcare will be familiar with the shift handover but it is a process that is not always given enough specific attention. This guidance therefore aims to help staff to understand and develop the role and purpose of the handover.

In one sense the shift handover can be likened to a mini-team meeting that occurs at least once but possibly twice or three times a day. It is a forum in which essential information has to be given and grasped quickly. At the same time, however, handover has an emotional content to it. Staff will be all too familiar with the times when they have approached the handover with anxiety about what the shift may hold. It is this emotional part of the handover that requires particular thought and attention.

The following can be used as an exercise within the team meeting to help staff to reflect and to explore the role and purpose of handover. Ask all staff to note down their reflections on the following:

  • What is the range of feelings you have as you approach the handover at the end of a shift?
  • What is the range of feelings you have as you begin handover at the start of your shift?
  • Are there any differences between starting and finishing a shift? And if so what are these?
  • What do you see the purpose of the handover to be?
  • How does handover operate currently in your unit and in what ways does it meet your needs?

The responses to the above will provide a simple evaluation of handover and how it is operating within the team and how to develop the process further.

Staff often report that they feel anxious about the amount of information they need to take in at the start of a shift. Additionally, staff can feel particularly anxious if the home has been very unsettled and the outgoing shift is off-loading this before they leave.

Two main factors are operating at this time. First, the outgoing shift need to pass on essential information in order to provide consistency of care for the young people. Second, both sets of staff have a range of feelings to deal with, whilst passing on and receiving the information. These two factors do not automatically work well together and therefore it is necessary for staff teams to devise a process for handling the handover in ways that are proactive and positive.

It is the second factor-the emotional content-that often is neglected. After a busy and challenging shift, staff need to be able to emotionally off-load before they leave the building. But whilst this is necessary, the process can become very lengthy, with the essential information becoming lost in the midst of it all. Whilst the guidance is in no way meant to be prescriptive, it is nevertheless worth thinking about organising the handover in the following way:

Staff arriving on duty take the lead with handover, thus reversing the usual way in which it operates.

So for instance, incoming staff member asks:

  • What happened with x?
  • How do you feel about what happened?
  • How did you deal with the situation?
  • What helped?
  • What was less helpful?
  • What plans are in place for the next shift?
  • How are you feeling now?

This approach can both facilitate the need for information and for staff to have space for their emotions but without the emotional content dominating the handover session.

Additionally, the task sheets can help to maximise the time available for handover. This system provides a quick and effective checklist for staff about what tasks have been done and what tasks need attention. Young people can also be included in preparing the key tasks that affect them in any one day or week, thus encouraging young people’s involvement and participation.

The staff handover can be difficult for young people. Staff are not readily available for them at this time and also young people know that they are being discussed and this can be especially difficult if their behaviour has been problematic. It is therefore particularly important that young people have some idea about why handover takes place.

At times when young people are at home (weekends and holidays in particular) and handover is taking place it is worth considering how to proactively manage the situation. Staff will be all too familiar with the times that handover is continually interrupted by young people. It may therefore be necessary for one staff member to stay with the young people and discuss with them their views of what happened and how the situation could be resolved.

It may also be possible at certain times to involve young people directly in part of the handover. This would allow young people to give their perspective and help to reduce the tension and disruption that can occur during this time.

There are a number of ways in which to organise and develop the staff handover forum. The above are provided only as ideas for discussion and not as a prescriptive model that must be followed. The key point is that in whatever ways handover is developed, it must do so in ways that facilitate a consistent approach in caring for and promoting the welfare of the young people.

2. Team Meeting

The team meeting provides the weekly forum for staff to come together and ‘touch base’ with one another. It is however, a forum that can have heavy demands placed upon it, these include:

  • Sharing and exchanging information;
  • Addressing issues, developing and agreeing strategies for working with young people;
  • The team meeting can also be a ‘mini’ training or consultation session;
  • A forum for involving colleagues from other settings and agencies who also have an important role with young people.

In order that the team meeting is effective, staff need to be clear about its role and purpose and they must attend the meeting ready and prepared to engage in team work.