How to maintain professional boundaries with your support worker

Woman and her support worker laughing together.

Engaging support workers means letting the person into many aspects of your personal, day to day life. Clients and support workers often develop close working relationships that can feel like friendships.

However, it is important to maintain professional boundaries with your support worker.

But what are professional boundaries?

What is a professional boundary?

Professional boundaries are guidelines and rules put in place to make sure the relationship between you and your support worker is safe.

When professional boundaries are not maintained, they can lead to problems such as:

  • Becoming emotionally attached to a support worker
  • Sharing information with a support worker when a client shouldn’t
  • Considering the support worker a ‘friend’
  • Inappropriate situations in a support relationship. For instance, when a support worker asks a client to pay for their meals when going to a café for lunch
  • Support workers who use your support time to get their own chores done.

Not maintaining professional boundaries can affect support workers too.

For example, if a client calls their support worker outside of a support session, at an inappropriate hour, or becomes too emotionally dependent on the support worker, it can take a toll on the support worker.

It can also lead to carer’s guilt. Blurring professional boundaries in this way can negatively affect the relationship between clients and support workers.

It’s possible to maintain professional boundaries while having a mutually rewarding, long-term working relationship with your support workers. The key is not to cross the line that defines the relationship as professional.

Friendship and support workers

While a support worker can often ‘feel like a friend’, your support worker’s role is to help build friendships, not be in the friendship.

Your support worker comes along with you to activities to meet new people or support you in the community when you meet your friends.

Ethical guidelines and what they mean

It’s natural for your support worker to get to know a lot about you and your life, so it’s important that they maintain confidentiality and ethical conduct at all times.

Ethical guidelines tell everyone what is expected of them in their work performance. For example, part of Mable’s ethical guidelines includes that support workers should not accept gifts from clients.

Ethical guidelines also ensure support workers have adequate training, skills, knowledge or expertise to provide the services they do.

Privacy matters

All clients have a right to privacy in their personal information, and workers should not seek information that is not relevant or necessary to the performance of their duties.

Confidentiality is important

Confidentiality means any information obtained or received by workers must be kept secret, except with the written or verbal consent of the client or their legal guardian.

Workers must not discuss or disclose confidential information with anyone without this permission.

It is expected workers will sometimes need to discuss matters with co-workers, peers or supervisors, but this should always be done in an appropriate and respectful way.

How to keep professional boundaries

When interviewing support workers, aim to have a professional support relationship from the start.

A meet and greet session is perfect for asking questions to support workers to see if they align with your support needs. It is also an opportunity to set your expectations of the support relationship.

When you book and manage support through Mable:

  • You have choice and control over who supports you, when and where they support you, and how much you pay for the support.
  • You’re safeguarded by Mable’s verification process and the high-level suite of insurances arranged by Mable on behalf of support workers.

Support workers on Mable are expected to follow Mable’s Code of Conduct when supporting clients on Mable.

If you have any questions about professional boundaries with your support worker, or need any assistance, please contact the Mable team.

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