Form and Function

Ensuring what we do is meaningful and beneficial

Whenever you plan to deliver support to an individual, you must think about whether that support will be meaningful and beneficial to the service user. So much time is often wasted on support that is unnecessary or inappropriately given, resulting in the service user’s life being hindered by your support instead of helped.

When thinking about a support session or activity, there are two aspects we must consider, “Form” and “Function”.


Form and Function

What FORM will the support take?

The Form of the support is how the support is delivered, is it a one-on-one session or group session? Is it a scheduled session or one to be done when required? What equipment, information, and environment do you need to carry out the session? Do you need training before undertaking the session?

To ensure the care and support we give is to the highest of standards; it must look and operate in a slick, professional manner. It should be nicely integrated into your routine and cause as little disruption as possible. All essential materials should be easily accessible and all paperwork should be easy and intuitive to complete.

Ensuring the Form is to a high standard will not only make the process more appealing and engaging for both yourself and the service user but will also allow you to focus your efforts on delivering the support instead of running around looking for equipment and filling in forms. A good Form will also allow for accurate and up-to-date record-keeping.


What FUNCTION does the support have?

The Function of the support is what we are trying to achieve by carrying out the support or activity and what outcomes we hope the individual or group achieves. Will be beneficial to their physical wellbeing? Mental wellbeing? Self-esteem and sense of fulfilment? Boast there confidence? Teach them useful coping skills? Avoid a crisis?

Whenever you offer care and support to an individual or group you walk a fine line between being a benefit to them and taking away their independence. Receiving care for any illness can be one of the most disempowering things that can happen to someone if the care is given inappropriately. Take the time to put yourself in the other person’s shoes make sure what you are doing is a help and not a hindrance.

Ensuring the Function of your support is a beneficial one will maximise the amount of positive influence you have on the lives of your service users and minimise the bad. It will help build a trusting relationship with your service users as it will demonstrate that you are spending the time you have with them focused on them.


Getting One Right but not the Other

Let’s take a look at some examples from the world of food where they have managed to get the Form, or Function, right but not the other.


Fast Food – Good Form, Bad Function


Fast food is an example of good Form, bad Function, the production is slick and customers get their food quickly and consistently. The kitchen is a well-oiled machine with timers on the grill and colour co-ordinated areas and equipment to make it as easy as possible for the staff to do their jobs to a high standard. And everything always looks good in the photo.

However, the quality of the ingredients is not always great, nor is it the healthiest food on the market, and if you like your burger cooked a particular way, good luck convincing the chef!

Home Cooking – Bad form, Good Function


A home cooked Sunday dinner is an example of good Function, bad Form, delicious and nutritious, it is not only a hearty meal but a great excuse to get everyone in the house together round the table and spend some quality time together.

However, they are not easy to prepare and use every pot and pan in the house. Plus there aren’t really any rules as to what makes a good Sunday dinner, go in one hundred houses and you will get one hundred different dinners, and none of them will be as good as your mum’s.


Getting Them Both Right

So what is it like when both Form and Function are at a high standard?


Award-Winning Restaurant – Form and Function


In an award winning restaurant you get Form and Function. Good quality ingredients cooked well, in a clean, professional kitchen, presented in an attractive way and served by friendly, attentive staff. Everyone is free to relax and take their time with their meal and let the conversation flow, and best yet, no-one has to do the washing up!

How does this Relate to you?

When delivering support it is important to make sure both the Form and Function are to a high standard and not fall into the trap of thinking because you are getting one of them right you do not need to care about the other.

Don’t be Fast Food – Efficiency, professionalism and impeccable record keeping are incredible important, but they do not replace the quality ingredients of a person-centred approach and a therapeutic rapport. Treat you service users as individuals and not a production line if you want them to leave a tip!

Don’t be Home Cooking – It can be very tempting to treat service users like your family, and often very beneficial, but if you become irreplaceable then it will make it very difficult for your service users to move on. If no-one makes a roast dinner like you, how is the person on shift next Sunday going to cope?

Be an Award-Winning Restaurant – Prepare every meal with high quality ingredients and serve every customer with relaxed, professional manner. Make sure you and the others in your kitchen know the standard menu so well they can cope when someone asks for something different.

You are not there to deal with the service users as fast and as efficiently as possible, nor are you there to become a crutch they can go to whenever they feel down. You are there to facilitate positive experiences for them that have a lasting impact for the better, so take the time to consider both the Form and the Function of the support you give.