Mind the gap
Talk about the gap between rhetoric and reality. At our conference on 14 March 2018, Minister Caroline Dinenage delivered a speech that could almost have been written by National Voices. We basked in the references to person-centred care and the praise for the voluntary sector. Then the minister rather spoiled things by leaving without taking questions. In her absence, we discussed the knotty obstacles to her vision: lack of funding; inequalities; the bureaucracy of the benefits system, and poor engagement with our sector – which the Minister’s premature departure rather unfortunately dramatised.
Later, Shadow Minister Barbara Keeley set out a fine high level vision of social care under a future Labour Government. Though she stayed for questions, she provided very little detail about Labour’s thinking and fought shy of suggestions from our expert panel for practical things to do before the next election, for example engaging in cross-party talks.
As if we needed reminding, it is foolish to load all our expectations on politicians. Meanwhile, Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, exemplified in her lively, engaging and person-centred address the power and potential of positive culture change in the medical profession. Whilst Ben Page’s Ipsos MORI data told an uplifting story of strong and enduring public support for the NHS – something which genuinely unites us as a nation and provides an important context for all the work we are doing as a sector to improve health and wellbeing.
Sharing learning in the voluntary sector
The real meat of the conference, though, lay in the breakout sessions, many of them led by National Voices’ members working together. Politicians may still be issuing fine words that don’t connect with lived reality, but on the ground there is a growing body of voluntary sector practice in person-centred coordinated care that can be shared, discussed, learned from and spread.
We were able to do some of that yesterday, for example in spotlighting the growing movement around peer support and different approaches to engaging with diverse communities. As a sector, we are not just talking about person-centred care; we are doing it, and moving the debate on.
Moving the conversation forward
At National Voices we have taken away fresh inspiration from the conference about how we can best continue to influence policy and practice and support our sector. Some of this is about how we tell a better story about the sector’s role; some of it is how we better coordinate our efforts across big and small charities and across the boundaries of individual diseases.
Many thanks to all of you who were able to come and participate in your different ways – and for your feedback. I hope you too were inspired and re-energised. Please let us know!