Reflections on social care in four lessons by Sian Lockwood.

As Sian announces her retirement from Community Catalysts, she reflects on what she’s learnt and her hopes for social care.

 Community Catalysts – a community interest company providing real choice for people needing some help to live the lives they want – was launched 11 years ago, with an ambition, a grant, a loan and two contracts. We were driven by our desire to make personalisation real by supporting local people to set up little community enterprises and activities. -. It was a risky venture, made riskier by the fact that our launch coincided with the beginning of austerity. Which explains my amazement and delight over our growth and development since then.  And we have learnt so much.

Lesson 1

is the value of grim determination. Those first years were a real test of nerve as the money started to run out and the contracts were slow to come in. We got through because of the energy and resolve of our team, who never gave up or lost sight of our vision.

Lesson 2

has to be the importance of our team – people that passionately shared CommCats’ vision and values and worked selflessly to deliver that vision.  We worked long hours and spent our lives on cold stations and on trains (do you remember trains?) shuttling around the UK to meetings and events.  Growth led to more resource and 2020 brought virtual working – both helping to bring down those long working hours. But we miss those stations, trains and people.

Lesson 3

is about getting the right balance between our charitable aims and business needs. We have learned to be more commercial but also to walk away from work that is not in line with our aims and values. The balance isn’t always perfect but we have stayed true to our aims and grown as a business. Most importantly we can look back at many wonderful programmes of work that have made a real difference to people’s lives.

Lesson 4

is all about the importance of collaboration, working with like-minded organisations through partnerships like TLAP. We know we can’t achieve our ambitious transformative vision alone. TLAP has helped nurture collaborations, advised and supported – and played a vital role in our journey.

What would I have done differently? Well, nothing, though not because we were perfect. We made plenty of mistakes but we learned from them and grew as people and as an organisation. And there is plenty left to do. I would love to see CommCats developing into new areas and influencing government policies so that they take account of the glorious diversity of community-led solutions and the huge strengths and energy of local people including those who need some help. But that is for someone else to take forward……..

And my hopes for the future of social care? Probably best summed up by #socialcarefuture

Don’t we all want to live in the place we call home with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing the things that matter to us? That’s the #socialcarefuture we seek.

I hope that central and local government and health bodies invest in communities to enable them to develop flexible, creative responses to the needs of everyone living there and provide opportunities for everyone to contribute in ways that work for them. I hope that where people need professional help, it is provided in ways that work for them and allows them to stay connected and contributing. That’s the hope I will continue to work for – one way or another – into retirement.  

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