And it’s happening. People are getting a voice and it feels very empowering. Twitter for the last few weeks has been alive with stories about real people – sad stories, heartening stories, occasionally funny stories. Social media is being used as a way of letting people have their say, not by writing to their MP or complaining to their local council (although obviously they can still do that) but directly with the world – anyone who is interested.
Well, I have been very interested. Firstly, I have followed the poignant Daughter Of An NHS Stroke Patient blog – the story of a brave woman whose mother has had a stroke. A passionate – and very well informed – cry for the best possible treatment with good communication, dignity and respect and all the other things a 21st century hospital should offer.
Then I have been following the ups and downs of the Redundant Public Servant, affectionately know as RPS. Here the realities of those “difficult decisions” that we hear about on the news, are played out through the lives of an ordinary family, as Dad’s hitherto secure job suddenly vanishes. In the context of real family life – Mrs RPS is pleased that he’s finally sorting some clutter and the daughter complains about her “pants” french test – we gain an insight into the harsh realities. Uncertainty, loss of income, loss of self esteem and feelings of rejection play out alongside hope and potential new opportunities.
And then today, a community based story. I loved this one. My 88 year old mother has been complaining that her local library is currently closed. It is being redeveloped and “will reopen with a new layout, new Police front desk services and the new self service facility”. She likes it the way it is. I have said that she’s lucky that, in the current climate, it’s not being permanently closed, but am concerned that it has cut off her daily outings during its three weeks refurbishment. A double whammy after being kept indoors (mainly by me!) during the cold and snow of December.
Anyway, I must tell her… yesterday’s Independent on Sunday carried a story of a Library emptied in bid to fight closure. In response to a Facebook campaign, “people in Stony Stratford, near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, have spent the week withdrawing their maximum allowance of books in protest against council plans to close it as part of budget cuts”. The library shelves are now empty – 16,000 books withdrawn in just over a week. Wow!
I have written in my previous blogs about how I try to promote the personalisation agenda in health and social care and the fact that EVERYONE should have choice and control. But , similarly, just telling people has very little impact. By far the most powerful messages come from real stories – positive stories of people “having a life rather than a set of services”– perhaps for the first time in their lives after many years in institutions. DVDs of people with new skills, new independence, a better quality of life. Talking to Kevin Chettle, an amazing guy who never wanted to do that embroidery day after day in a day centre, but who found an artistic ability and went on to illustrate books and lecture in universities….
Over the weekend I became aware, via Twitter, of the “One month before heartbreak” appeal for people to write blogs as part of The Broken of Britain, Disabled People’s Campaign. This is explained and discussed very eloquently in the latest RPS blog, so I won’t go into detail. In short, real people tell their real stories about how the proposed cuts in Disabled Living Allowance will affect them and their real families.
Just as when we learn of a huge natural disaster on television, we say “how terrible!” but can’t really comprehend. Then the story of a single family wiped out makes us cry, because it moves from “statistics” to human suffering. With modern technology, we have the tools to be able to bypass spin, learn from individual perspectives and make our own judgements. Walk a mile in my shoes….
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