Some might think this is the most tenuous link to have ever found itself on the Better Lives blog, but I have form in linking TV shows to social care (see the Coronation Street one). I mean spies of the MI5 kind and social work. “Really?” I hear you cry, but there is a link. Two in fact and, as my last ever Adult Social Care blog, I’d like to share them with you if you don’t mind…
Does anyone remember the BBC drama Spooks? I do and I loved it. I was hooked; watching MI5 agents in full spy mode, keeping the country safe from terrorism and stopping assassination plots against some super important official, usually at the very last second! The agents were, in the majority, quite attractive (not the whole reason for watching!); they mostly looked very moody and did a lot of long prolonged, troubled stares. They were also particularly good at being undercover – wearing high visibility jackets with little earpieces pretending to fix a broken wire, whilst listening in to covert operations of a ‘threat to national security’.
When I saw actual workers in Leeds fixing wires, I questioned if they were the real deal or not. I honestly started to wonder if they could be MI5 agents. Fortunately, I didn’t peak in their ears for evidence of a secret listening device, but I did wonder. I absolutely saw these people differently and I do the same now with the people I see in the street, who may or may not use our care and support services. There’s my first link. I see people differently now…
When I walk around town and see an older person; a person with learning disabilities; physical disabilities or someone who has mental health problems, I now steal a glance and wonder what their story is and I wonder if they’re OK. I also wonder if they know, want or need to know that we’re here to help. And when I say ‘we’, I mean the army of people who work in social care services. I know what we do and some of you might do too, but do the people who might really need support know?
Before, I saw people just as people – strangers who could have walked passed without a moment’s thought. They’re not strangers in my mind now though, they’re real people with their own stories and I’m glad. I’m glad I see them in the way that I do now; wondering if they’re OK because by seeing them differently, I’ve started to do things differently.
It sounds silly, futile and so very, very small, which it is, but I now say ‘hello’ and have a chat to *Rita on the bus because I know that few other people do. She’s widowed with no family close by or neighbours who seem to care. I found all that out from an initial chat about the lateness of the bus (and yes, then two did come at once) and we’ve been chatting ever since. She now knows about Armley Helping Hands – a Neighbourhood Network place where she can go and meet new friends; take up hobbies and have a great time because it was subtly dropped in conversation.
I make a point of saying hello and having a chat to *George who goes into our local pub. George, who devastatingly lost his wife so very unexpectedly 14 months ago and now only seems to find numbing peace in a pint, or several, or when he’s asleep. We gave him a Christmas card and tragically, it was his only one but he smiled and read it twice and still thanks us and it’s May. He’s recently started thinking about doing a computer course and I’ve gently pointed him in the direction of Pudsey Live at Home – another neighbourhood network. Who knows; one visit to their centre and maybe next year he’ll get more than just one Christmas card.
The smallest, tiniest of gestures I know and the above examples are hardly going to eradicate poverty or social isolation but it’s a start. So what’s next?
Most blogs fall broadly into two categories – the sharing of a story (or in my case ramblings!) and the ‘call to action’. I’m hoping to combine the two and ask that even if it’s just once, try and see someone differently and then do something different that might make a little difference to them. It could be sharing what you know about social care services to someone like Rita or George; passing on a telephone number of local support group or suggesting they have a look on the Leeds City Council website for care and support services or the Leeds Directory. It could also be something as simple as giving up your seat on the bus and asking if the person is OK today. It might be sacrificing the cost of an overpriced latte coffee and buying a Big Issue instead. You might even want to take things further and join a volunteering project for something you believe in. See differently; do differently; make a difference.
Now for the second link to spies and social care where there’s absolutely no ‘call to action’.
I’ve had the honour, and I don’t use that word lightly, to have worked for Adult Social Care for two and a half years now and in my time here, there are plenty of people (staff and carers) who I will fondly remember and respect enormously. They have my respect because it’s extraordinary just how much people do that often goes unrecognised because people are simply unaware. So much happens that goes above and beyond the call of duty; standardised hours or, in some circumstances, pay. Much like MI5 agents, the public may not know of the hours, efforts and many ‘extra miles’ that are tirelessly put in by social care staff – the public don’t need to know but staff do this and simply because they want the people of Leeds to have better, safer lives.
And so, one of my final thoughts is to say to these heroes of our time, you are extraordinary and it was a privilege working with you. Long may the fantastic work go on…
*names have been changed