Simple humanity

By Sam Sly

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I’ve read all the great blogs written so far for #socialcarefuture and every one of them says a little bit of what I would have wanted to write about, so I thought I best get this blog out quick, before there is nothing more to say!

On contemplating my initial thought that it has all already been said, I realised that the first point I would want to make about the future of social care would be that we really don’t need to re-invent what citizens need to look out for and look after each other – it’s probably already out there. We shouldn’t be wasting time and money on the next big transformation or reform, but instead should focus on all the things we already have as a society and build on those.

One of my sadly held beliefs, is that ‘care’ ‘support’; whatever it is that people want to call it, became an industry a long time ago – inextricably linked to and driven by profit. It has largely become “serviceland” – somewhere no one particularly wants to be and where, though the language used to describe it changes, what is done to people mostly doesn’t. The saving grace is when I come across a person, group or an organisation bucking the trend and getting great lives for people. These are the “glimpses of the future” that happen because they have fought hard not to be sucked into serviceland and usually despite, not because of the dominant system.

Serviceland is governed by gatekeepers and rationers whose roles have been shaped by care becoming an industry. But in my experience there has never been enough money in health and social care to give people all that they think, or others decide they need. In fact, I would say that even if there was that magic ‘money tree’ that politicians taunt each other about – it still would not significantly change the futures for the people I work alongside because their future happiness isn’t going to be found in serviceland – it will only be found in the real world.

So, if you are with me, I have an idea. Not a radical idea, not a new idea, but one we can all act on for free to start to shape a good future for social care and to start to demolish serviceland. Let’s each of us pledge that from now on in everything we say and do and everything we are, we will act with humanity towards each other. It sounds so simple, and the results would be so great. If we do this we can really challenge serviceland.

In my job as a life planner every day I already see where acts of humanity have made a difference to people’s lives, both in the moment that someone is humane and, in the weeks and years after. My job involves planning good futures with people who are in the most distressing, depressing and horrendous of situations – incarcerated in specialist hospitals. Part of the planning is to recount their life so far, so we can learn from the past. Despite the horror and pain they have often experienced it is other people’s (professionals and loved ones) acts of humanity that they remember vividly and that have given them strength, helped build resilience, and nurtured the hopes and dreams that keep them motivated in what could be seen, at times, as quite hopeless situations. The life planning process is also facilitated in as humane a way as possible – seeking out people’s strengths, skills, resilience, hopes and dreams and building on these rather than risks and fears.

These acts of humanity are simple person to person things – like the teacher remembered 20 years on because they were kind and gentle to the social worker who kept in touch when the person moved area – these are the things that make a difference. People remember someone who has shown kindness, compassion, empathy, generosity, understanding or magnanimity. Like a ripple effect it can make everyone involved more inclined to act with humanity towards others. People stuck in serviceland remember the professionals who acted with humanity even if they still had to deliver bad news.

Acts of humanity give people hope. So, if you take away one thought after reading my blog I would like it to be that each and every one of us is the future of social care and has the capacity to make it a good one. If we decided individually and collectively to root everything we do in humanity, then we are well and truly sorted. A dream? Possibly. Achievable? Definitely.

Sam Sly

Enough is Enough Time4Change!

1 Comment

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  1. I love this, Sam. I would add that I think most system failures that I am aware of have been caused by the humans in the system not acting like humans but like they are cogs in an unforgiving machine. I would further add that one of the most important human qualities that often gets neglected is that of listening. Listening is really, really important. See this for an example (read the comments)


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