All Together Better

By Julie Stansfield

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As one of the convenors of a growing movement, I am proud, with In Control, to be hosting #socialcarefuture

Looking at the pre-election debate about social care I am struck by the absence of the voice of people and families who use it. I think that this absence pushes the debates – and probably the manifestos – in a narrow direction. The debates are about personal care and property wealth when they should be about good lives for all in strong supportive communities.

Over many years now In Control and our partners have found that when you bring people, families, professionals and managers together they find common ground and energy to build something so much better.

Last week we met a new “All Together Better” group. As we travelled down from Manchester to Somerset I wondered what the group would be like. I’ve learned you can never tell from application forms nor from first impressions. The process of those who embark on this journey is always different and unique. Nobody knows the troubles people carry with them and how the first session – where we go deep into ‘why things are the way they are’ will affect them.

What I do know is this course is the most worthwhile time I ever spend. I attended the very first course of Partners in Policymaking that took place in Oldham in 1996. 23 years later and with a range of associated programmes like “All Together Better”‘ I continue to bang this drum as loud as I can and make no apology for doing so.
In the majority of current great co production & “patient” leader groups, you will find Partners graduates. These are leaders that have negotiated with ministers, civil servants & senior managers for a better social care future.

This vast network across England (and beyond) is not organised by any one person or organisation, you will find Partners in very many organisations across England & Scotland. They all work & take action in different ways but they all share the beat of the same drum.

The significance of these courses is not purely in the course programme itself, that’s just the start of the journey – it’s the journey itself. It’s being given the magical mixture of grounded information along with inspiration. The knowledge aligned with hope takes each individual on their own journey but also unites them as a bonded group. It’s always interesting to see people come in their named role of worker, mother, father, professional, recipient, nurse and see that even by the end of the first session the roles drop and they see each other as people with gifts & talents to be used to lead change.

Last week was no different – families sat with council workers and providers and talked about what they had heard, how they felt and what change they would like to see locally. They currently have little idea of the growth of power that these conversations will achieve over the next 4 months.

Facilitating the groups is a massive responsibility, making people feel as safe and comfy as possible whilst the speakers rock and challenge them to think hard and inspire them to be the change they want to see in the world.

Partners become national pioneers, leaders of a better future, change makers, the range and variances are vast with just the one thing in common….inclusion of all people.
Gavin Croft famously said to a minister “I want a life not a service.”  This mantra has carried through generations of advocates for a better future. We are not there yet for the majority of people but the network grows and spreads to all people who want a better future.

I’ve seen people awake from bureaucratic slumber and become the most motivated leaders of change. I’ve seen people tired from the battle suddenly change direction and find a completely different way to get on with what’s important in their life. These amazing stories bring to life the quote of Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”

Julie Stansfield ~ CEO ~ In Control Partnerships


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