Plans, plans, perseverance and pies

I’ve landed the New Year blog post which seems like a terrifying opportunity to reflect on the previous year. Where did it go? If I close my eyes and think back I  find vague memories of being on trains; of starting a new job; of a whirlwind of new people; of meetings, of minutes, of work plan after work plan; of avoiding going to the gym; of late nights typing reports; of panicking over panel discussions I’d somehow ended up on; of strong coffee and then suddenly of Christmas, of Jackie Bird and a bombardment of instagram “My year in photos”,  New Year engagements and steak pies.

Now it’s 2018, no more steak pies for anyone apparently. Only kale.

This change in year means that I’ve been on secondment to the Scottish Government Self-directed Support Policy team for 10 months, full time for 7 of these. It’s been such a steep learning curve for me, being totally new to the inner workings of government and probably too comfortable in the self-managing ways of Scottish Care. There’s now a work plan of a work plan of a work plan, a sub group of a sub group of a sub group and the most challenging part…Blackberry phones? Seriously though, I thought they were discontinued 10 years ago?! It’s a whole new world. But being here has been and continues to be absolutely invaluable to my learning and development and similar to being at Scottish Care (had to put that in there!) I’ve met so many hugely hard working and passionate people

Looking back, at the end of my Scottish Care Self-directed Support project which looked at the uptake of SDS for older people, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was exhausted, de-motivated and missing seeing the impact of my work. It wasn’t like teaching where I could relax at the end of the day as I saw the kids progress. The light bulb moment where a small Korean child finally understood rock, paper, scissors or something equally as valuable- these didn’t seem to be there anymore. Self-directed Support was too huge, there were too many barriers. I lost the enthusiastic, idealistic, passionate person I was 15 months earlier. I still truly believed in Self-directed Support but I was bogged down in the system blocks, in the lack of awareness, in the blame chain, in the financial climate, in the difficult reality for a lot of people.

When the opportunity for secondment emerged I thought, “YES” I’ll go to the government and I’ll sort it out from there. Nae bother at all.

The End

Except not. Of course. I’m part of a wonderful, passionate team who truly believe in the Act and work their socks off every day (I know, I know, my dad’s already told me that I’ve become a government apologist). But I’m there, my eyes are open to how incredibly difficult this is at all levels. When I worked at Scottish Care, I thought, like many people, the government just need to wave a big stick at everyone and scare them into implementing this properly. Human rights were at stake after all. But it’s slowly set in that it’s not that simple. Waving a big stick doesn’t change mind-sets, culture, systems or the hard realities on the ground for people and for staff. There’s a fundamental question there about what drives people to make something truly happen- I don’t think it’s fear or threat or at least I don’t think it should be.

My role at Scottish Government is communications, working to ensure a shared understanding and commitment to SDS both internally and externally. I’ve accepted that this won’t change the world but alongside all of the tremendous work going on within the sector things are changing. I’d like to use this part of the blog to ask you, the reader, how do you feel about Self-directed Support? In your role, do you feel you/or the providers you support have the opportunity and understanding to make Self-directed Support a reality? After all, it’s not just about Options, it’s about how we see and work with others. If the answer is no, ask yourself what you can do to change that? Yes, it’s massive and requires whole system change but sometimes you have to take the first step even if you can’t see the whole staircase.

As Martin Luther King Jr said;

“Human Progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

I still have days where I put my head on the desk and think, this isn’t making a difference. But then I meet families like the McTaggarts (the part of the blog I’ve been waiting to get to) and I feel inspired about the importance of Self-directed Support all over again. Please watch Grant’s story. This blog is dedicated to him and his family for their time, honesty and chocolate muffins.

Peace, love and perseverance for 2018 

Carlyn Miller