So today was my first ever day at a National Children’s and Adults Services conference.. Some of you may have noticed on my Twitter timeline that I was a tad excited about the opportunity to come along and hear talk of the future and discus the real issues present in social care today.
The day started with a very important step forward in that the first keynote speaker, before presidents, politicians or officers was Issac. Issac, a young inspirational man who has experience of the services we offer and provide. Issac set a clear message of aspiration, passion and expectation. One that urged us to truly understand what co-production is. Beyond the fashionable yet all to often incorrect application by health and social care. Beyond the words of consultation and expectations of gratitude towards a reality of delivering equal discussions and equal responsibility for the future of health and social care.
Issac, for me, was challenging yet offered solutions and epitomised the benefit that equal conversations could bring to our ever pressured social care landscapes. I was struck by one key thing that Issac said, “social care needs to work with people to think beyond the aspiration of nothing”. This is such a fundamental point that it must not be lost in the discussions of the numerous meetings that we will all be attending throughout these three days. If we consider this statement as the measure of whether social care truly understands the power it holds but more importantly the freedom it can offer people if done correctly then we may be on our way to really supporting aspiration in those people who allow us the privilege of working with them.
Ray James @rayjames the current president of ADASS then took to the lectern and delivered a speech on all that you would expect of an incumbent president, and more. Ray gave some clear messages about the reality of social care and the very real dangers that narrow thinking and disproportionate funding across govt sectors would bring. He reminded the conference that what are seen as innovative funding initiatives are still only what they are, reminding all that “a tenner in a joint account is still only a tenner”.
The focus then turned to transforming care. The reality that way too many years after the winterbourne atrocities and way way to many years after the Cornwall abuse and way way way (there is a theme here) to many years after the Ely hospital scandal we still have no solution in situ now for those forced to live in the shadows of society. A strong statement of expectation was given by this president that the issue of ATUs and all that they bring has to be dealt with . Ray urged directors to ask the question and take personal responsibility to ensure that their services were finding solutions. He also drew a very stark reminder that people die in such settings. Deaths that are avoidable and should never happen. He spoke of the death of Connor Sparrowhawk and the reality of the #justiceforLB campaign should have filed the minds everyone present. For me knowing that at this exact moment somewhere else in the country a family were listening to what had happened to their son, brother and family member made me wonder why this still needed to be or had only just been said so many years on, but said it was and to be fair said with meaning. Now I’ve pushed this blog way to many times but truly believe we must ask ourselves where were all the social workers and social care if we are to truly resolve this unacceptable situation
My next session was slightly indulgent in that I got to hear about social work, social work leadership and principle social workers. Lyn Romeo (@LynRomeo_CSW) started by delivering Isabelle Trowler’s speech (as she was unable to be with us), a speech that had a very key message “practice matters most”. Now there are lots of debates out there about the future of social work, the training, the programmes etc but regardless of your view this statement is true, Practice matters, it really matters. Whether you are an NQSW or a director of social care it matters. Social work is not some abstract concept that only permeates the world of front line operational teams, just below the managers and certainly not above them. No, it is a core concept and focus that runs through every element of social care and must inform today and the future in an honest and shared way with the citizens it aims to stand alongside.
Lyn then took on her own speech (although I’m sure she never writes one it just happens and happens well) and started again with a very important concept. Leadership and followship are equal, interchangeable and dependant on one another. In health and care a world where the tribe of leadership is held high it is important to remember that no leader would exist if they didn’t have people validating what they were trying to achieve. The concept of the first follower, as many of my colleagues in Herts who have suffered my workshops will know, is wholly underrated. The ability to attract this first follower is what can drive eccentric and diverse ideas to meaningful fruition. It is this faith that the first person brings that will bring others on the journey. Lyn and the PSWs showed what system leadership could achieve if allowed to do so, introducing us to positive examples and the potential going forward to deliver real change and innovation through social work.
Although other sessions were attended and stands explored my last session was one that had real impact. Adult safeguarding and domestic violence was one I had pencilled in before I’d even arrived in Bournemouth and although the session overall was very good the keynote from Polly Neate @pollyn1 was exceptional. Her insight and knowledge in to the issues and realities of domestic violence in our society was hugely informative and took me back to my social work training and law exams. We had two legal exams back then, one was a prescribed question and the second was a legislative open choice question. I chose domestic violence law. Although I was actively encouraged to change my mind for “more relevant legal frameworks” needless to say I stuck with domestic violence law. Now this was the mid 90s and the world of domestic abuse law has changed and continues to do so but Polly reminded me / us that we must accept and remember that domestic violence however perpetrated is still an issue of gender. It is not gender neutral, it is still a crime perpetrated by men on and over women. This fact is one that I do not reflect on often enough and one that I doubt social care reflects on anywhere near enough. Until we can accept and understand this reality I do wonder how much real impact we will have on the continuation of such oppressive crimes so very much present in out towns villages and cities today. Polly reminded us that this fundamental issue of gender is fuelled by how men and society construct their role and that of women. The false excuses of male identity and the perceived restriction of this still permeate in the justification for criminal acts, control and brutality. This talk alone has made the week worthwhile and left me with a need to understand and reflect on how I ensure my practice and management is shaped in response. A process that I hope the predominantly male attendees of conference will also undergo.
Much more happened on my first day, including seeing my colleagues surf on dry land but that’s a whole other blog. These however were key (and it’s getting late so please forgive shoddy grammar and typos) and I wanted to capture them. Roll on breakfast meetings.