By Anna Severwright

Another social care conference… the big names talking… and no one who draws on social care speaking at the main sessions.

This is 2021 and still the conversations about social care, are happening without us, people with lived experience of social care (either themselves or as a family carer).

Thankfully we have progressed; to a place where if a conference on gender inequality had no female speakers, it would be criticised and probably draw protests. Or an event about tackling racism, had only white experts, rightly it would lack all credibility. And yet social care conferences are full of experts and leaders, who usually have never experienced living with the very thing they are talking about. Or we have to beg to be begrudgingly added last minute as the ‘token service user’.

Social care needs a #MeToo or #BLM moment!

Why does this matter?

– A buzz word in social care is ‘asset based’ – seeing people’s strengths- and yet deep down much of the sector still sees its role as caring for vulnerable people and that they best know what people need. When I said I wanted to be able to go out with my friends more often, I was offered a befriending service. This sense that we are vulnerable is deep in the culture and is perpetuated by the idea that we couldn’t possibly be able to contribute to discussions or at conferences. #ValuableNotVulnerable

– We are also experts. I live this every day. And I know what works well and what doesn’t. I can tell you where I have been given off the shelf options that never worked and wasted money or some simple changes that would mean I need less care long term. This doesn’t replace other experts but compliments their knowledge.

– We care too! Believe me I have a huge desire to see a strong and successful social care, my quality of life relies on it. I also care about the social care workforce because my life is intrinsically linked to theirs. We have the same goals.

– When we get added on as a last minute tokenistic gesture, frankly it’s insulting and humiliating.

– Simply because it’s the right thing to do! The fact these meetings and conferences happen without us is shocking. Or should be. But it happens all the time so the sector accepts it. #OurSocialCare

At Social Care Future we got so fed up with this normal that we have launched the Whose Social Care Is It Anyway? Inquiry, led by a group of people with lived experience. We will also hear from other experts and leaders from social care- this isn’t about removing them- but about rebalancing the voices where so often we are left out. We will also focus on what really matters to people, not get lost in the bureaucracy of the system.

So what can you do?

In recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet lots of social care system leaders, many of whom seem to be really genuine in their desire to see change. But most of these people still keep attending and in some cases running these events that effectively exclude us. I say now if you want to be our ally you need to personally change your behaviour. You need to make sure all of your own events are designed and delivered alongside us. And if you are invited to join events a true ally would refuse to do so unless they were similarly codesigned with equal opportunity to participate. If you, the powerful influential people don’t do this nothing will change. So I am asking you to be my ally.

Here is a tweet you can use to pledge & please used the hashtags #oursocialcare & #socialcarefuture https://twitter.com/socfuture/status/1357937317307105284?s=20

You can also copy the text and use it on Facebook, Linkedin or other social media:

I pledge. If I’m asked to speak at a conference or contribute to another kind of public debate about social care I will ask organisers to ensure full & equal contribution from people who draw on social care. Share if you will pledge #OurSocialCare

Thank you.

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