The power of people's stories
Blog by Jaimee Lewis, Communications Manager, Think Local, Act Personal
Have you read that story about the recent government policy to give people an "indicative allocation" of money available for their care and support? Where a "service user" goes through a "support planning process" to work out how they will spend their personal budget to best meet "their agreed outcomes" and then after sign off, manage it according to the "chosen deployment options"?
My guess is that you have, especially if you work in social care. Maybe less so if you are someone who uses support. Either way, I suspect you'd tune out after reading that first line. Or if you did get to the end of the paragraph, think to yourself "what gobbledegook! That means nothing to the person whose life is actually affected by the policy!"
I doubt too that the story would have inspired you to get your supporters or team together to plan how you were going to spend a personal budget or make the policy happen in reality.
However, I would hazard a guess that a lot of people have heard the story about Gavin, who has MS and a sight impairment. He used some of his personal budget to purchase a football season ticket so a fellow Rochdale fan could support him in cheering on his favourite football team. This was instead of far more expensive "respite". It worked so well that after a while they were just mates, no purchase of ticket needed.
Gavin's story is essentially the same as the one in the first paragraph, but told very differently. And that's where I come in.
My job is about taking policy speak (or "gobbledegook") and trying to make it mean something to real people - whether they are people who work in social care or people who use support. The hope is that people get what we (TLAP) are on about and what needs to happen to make the big changes in adult social care policy take place.
I believe that one of the best ways to communicate complex policy is by sharing people's stories. Stories remind us why it's so important to keep on going when faced with the very real challenges of changing the culture of an entire social services system.
The story can be about a person's life: the difficulties they face because of disability or exclusion; how it used to be before they had a personal budget; what it's like now; what is good about it; what hasn't worked so well and their hopes are for the future.
We've all heard the season ticket example. But what about Maureen's story (opens new window), whose life was possibly saved because nursing staff worked with her in a person-centred way? Or Michael's story, who used his personal budget to get into the workforce?
The story can be about someone who is working in social care feeling like they are getting back to what they "originally entered the social work for in the first place" - like Theresa (opens new window); or it can be the story of a CEO who is explaining how she is working to ensure her organisation is delivering true personalisation (like this clip of Ruth Gorman (opens new window) from IAS, who is explaining how her organisation is working towards meeting the markers of progress set out in Making it Real).
The story can be written down, shared online, be filmed or told in person.
How slick the production is doesn't matter. Rather, what matters is that the story resonates with people; it inspires people about what's possible; and it motivates people to act.
That's not to say that all of the work I do to communicate complex policy changes can be simplified down in to a single story. I know that to do so would gloss over the very real and very challenging barriers that still exist in making choice and control a reality for all.
But after working on the agenda for over five years, and seeing the progress that has been made in that time, alongside the current links being made to welfare reform and budget cuts, I still firmly believe this is just as much about winning hearts and minds, as it is about finding solutions to practical implementation issues.
The power of sharing people's stories in showing what's possible - and the effect it has on motivating people to embark on massive changes in the way care and support is received or delivered - is perhaps why we "sold out" of almost 10,000 copies of the Individual Budgets and Personal Budgets DVDs released in 2007, 2008 and 2010. We're still getting requests for these DVDs years later (incidentally, the stories are still online (opens new window)).
It's why I worked so hard to get as many personal stories in the book (opens new window) I just wrote with Helen Sanderson on Delivering Personalisation through Person-Centred Practice. It's why the Social Care Institute for Excellence has invested so much in Social Care TV (opens new window) and why the Department of Health's Personal Health Budgets team developed their own DVD (opens new window). Sharing stories illustrates what life is like from someone else's point of view.
It's why I am thrilled to have just signed off the new Making it Real films that will soon be available on the TLAP website (once we launch them later this spring). Not only do we have sector leaders telling us why Making it Real feels so important for them, we have 12 members of our National Coproduction Advisory Group sharing their personal experiences the impact personalisation has had on their lives, why they are working to Make it Real, and why it means so much to the people they represent.
I don't always have the budget, or the time, to bring these stories together in the way that I would like. So to add to the Making it Real films, I'd like your help in identifying people's stories, so we can share them through our website and networks to help benefit others who might be facing similar challenges and wanting to be inspired by success elsewhere. It is my personal mission to help bring these together and encourage others to do the same, so collectively we can all make a contribution to transform the way social care in England is experienced by people and families.
How useful was this article?
(1 is not useful, 5 is very useful)
Be the first to post a comment on this page.