By Julie Stansfield
We can be forgiven for feeling pretty gloomy when, as a society, we are in effect seeing it as a problem that older people are living longer and younger people with complex health needs are surviving….effectively blaming people for being a burden to the public purse instead of celebrating life. Our systems are frequently said to be cracking under the pressure – it’s true, but of course they haven’t been the right systems for decades. 15 years ago we at In Control argued the system was broken, unfit for the future – but fast forward to 2018 and now, on its knees, the same system tries to maintain or “stablise” itself. A positive social care future doesn’t really need new ideas – they have been there for years now – rather we need to get on with making them a reality.
Last week a senior manager said to me “oh we used to do that “In Control social work” but we now have to do “austerity social work“……seriously! Has self-directed support gone out of fashion without even getting to a first base in reality? I wanted to respond that it was never a fad, but rather the right way forward for people using social care and the only serious contender that makes economic sense too. But I took a deep breath and sympathised with his dilemma & impossible goal of trying run the same system with dramatically less resources and suggested shifting to a mindset not seen enough in public services, one that prizes resourcefulness.
John Baldoni in his Harvard review states “Resourcefulness is not a means of coping with deprivation; it can be a virtue that opens the door to greater accomplishment”. So as I wander round the country between 10 Any Street with people and families and 10 Downing Street. I look for the leaders with this mindset. Without doubt the group who show the mindset more than any other I have found is those in the national network of people involved in Partners in Policymaking https://goo.gl/FDHFkW. And this is where I shift from gloom to optimism about a possible future for what we currently call social care.
Sherrie Campbell highlights 6 characteristics of the resourceful mindset….. being open-minded, self- assured, imaginative, proactive, persistent & hopeful. None of us who are part of this network lack imagination or resourcefulness. We simply can’t afford to. We can’t allow ourselves to say “It can’t be done” “they won’t let us” “there’s no money”. We can’t do that because it’s our lives and those of the people that we love that are on the line. We are disabled people, family members of older and disabled people, committed supporters of people society too-often excludes. Lynne Elwell who leads the network, has recently been capturing the tools, tips and stories that reflect and can help us build our resourcefulness. Watch out for Rights of Passage – the product of decades of learning and experience – being published soon.
I could list thousands of stories where partners resourcefulness created success but I will offer you just one, very simple but quite profound. A young man Jack, labelled as having a learning disability wants a job. The system response is an employment scheme. This scheme offers to teach him how to fill in an application form and interview skills. It also offers work experience in a specialist part of the garden centre or collecting trollies at the local supermarket. Jack isn’t interested in gardening nor working in a supermarket. He wants to work in a local pub where he can mix with other young people of his age. Partners set up an advert on a facebook community notice board, “Jack dreams of having a job in the Anchor Inn if anyone is willing to help us make his dream come true get in touch”. Within minutes two people have responded who know the landlord. His trial as a glass collector started within a week. Jack is now a waiter, still at the Anchor Inn and is reported to be the most meticulous table setter.
John Waters often tells the story of the “Gordian Knot” which always rings true to me, as systems fiddle with the knot in attempts to untie it, taking forever, Resourcefulness tells us to simply slash the knot to get to what matters. A great #socialcarefuture needs the folk who will slash that knot and bring together networks & leaders with the right mindset to build a sound future where people belong to each other not to the state. Yes it’s truly terrible what cuts have done to social care. But in the future, as money comes back in as it surely must – let’s spend it on supporting people’s resourcefulness.
Julie Stansfield is Chief Executive of In Control