An Illustrative Institutional Object: Social Outings
The activity of AO team members in taking clients out for coffee or on varying types of shopping trips, for example, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, is a dominant form of engagement that is used by the AO team as a way of providing and maintaining regular contact with a service user, as well as acting as a social outing or activity.
Generally speaking, Social Outings hold a meaning for the team as a way of feeling secure in their perception of themselves as service providers who are tasked with providing regular engagement and aim to stabilise a client’s lifestyle. To a certain extent, the meanings behind these activities are similar to those as used in an everyday context, that is, to catch up since their last interaction, to discuss possible events in the local area, current affairs and various other topical issues. However, a contrast can be drawn between the everyday meaning of a shopping trip with someone and the constructed meaning that can be seen in this particular context. This interpretation goes further into their construction of particular clients as the experience of Social Outings was also symbolic of certain service users’ reliance and dependency on the team. Social Outings held a pertinent meaning for the team that helped define interactions between them and their clients. Initially, taking clients on shopping trips can begin during the first stage of the team’s engagement with a given person. In the case of one particular client, this occurred when they were discharged into the community and thus to the team’s caseload. At this time, it was reported that this individual lacked basic provisions in terms of food at their home. This was originally viewed as such a basic and necessary need that the team carried out shopping for them as a way of making their move back home as comfortable as possible. Over a short period of time, this quickly sat at the forefront of their engagement with this individual, and the meaning held by the team for these shopping trips began to be shaped around something different. They developed the impression that the client was nervous and uncomfortable with the idea of moving home due to fears of loneliness. These regular shopping trips began to be construed by the team as a method by which they could provide regular engagement with him and also allow them to feel secure in the knowledge that they had an adequate supply of food.
Over time, through their interaction with this individual over this object, it is evident that the team constructed a meaning for Social Outings which symbolises reliance and dependency. The client became viewed as far from an independent or interdependent individual. Furthermore, they reacted negatively, even apparently aggressively, to refusals or the rescheduling of trips and they came to be seen as taking advantage of the team’s generosity, over-needy and ungrateful. On the other hand, this also perpetuated the nature of the team’s engagement, as they continued to either take them shopping or carry out similar tasks.
Overall, Social Outings were an activity that team members regularly used as a dominant form of engagement with clients. The meaning that generated for this activity amongst the team was that it represented a way of providing regular contact with a client which can also serve another purpose and have consequences for how an individual client might be identified.