Podcast: Emphasising Humanity – Asset-based approaches: The first step to transformation

Glasgow Centre for Population Health recently published their latest research report Asset-based approaches in Service Settings. The report considers a number of examples of asset-based approaches in health and social care services across the Scotland, the benefits they bring and their future potential.

A recent Academy blog noted the links between the Academy’s Five Provocations for Health and Social Care and the new report.

In this latest podcast, Andrew Strong meets Jennifer McLean and Val McNeice to discuss their findings how they can be applied across different settings to stimulate transformational change.

Awkward Conversations

It is an inevitable fact of life, often met with apprehension, reluctance and even tactical avoidance but awkward or difficult conversations are something we will have recurring experience of during our lifetime. Be it in our personal lives, or the workplace, as the recipient or the initiator, navigating how to handle these conversations can be a complex and intimidating affair.

The issue with awkward conversations is that they are often needed to be had, and when done right they can be informative, lead to a greater understanding, expanded perspectives…and dare I say it, even a resolution. When done right, they can move us forward.

But there are often a lot of variables at play – differing ideas and opinions, negative attitudes, defensiveness and fear of judgement are just a few of the causations that mean we approach these conversations with trepidation, and can all too often result in heads butting, voices not being heard and communication breaking down. The question is then, how do we handle these conversations? If there are so many potential benefits that can be reaped from an awkward or challenging conversation gone well, what can we do to make this a reality?

On the 24th January, the Health and Social Care Academy, in partnership with COPE Scotland will explore how to hold challenging conversations without them breaking down. As part of Workforce Scotland’s Firestarter Festival, a weeklong festival aimed to shake up and transform the way we work through a series of creative, disruptive and innovative collaborative learning events, Awkward Conversations will tackle the proverbial elephant in the room and explore how to create a psychologically safe space that will facilitate the opportunity for people to share some challenging issues without fear of being mocked or judged.

In health and social care, especially in the pursuit of transformational change in health and social care, awkward conversations will be an unavoidable part of the process. But if we can create the space to have these conversations in a purposeful, open and respectful way, then perhaps awkward won’t be something to be feared.

For further information on Awkward Conversations, and to book your place at this free event visit the Eventbrite page. Follow @HandSCAcademy on Twitter for updates.

Debate about future of Social Care is Vital

Social work and social care are not valued enough and neither is there enough anger about the poor outcomes experienced by disabled people and unpaid carers says Lynn Williams, Unpaid Carer.

I was very privileged to have the opportunity to speak at the recent ALLIANCE event focussing on the recent Audit Scotland report “Social Work in Scotland”.  Read More “Debate about future of Social Care is Vital”

#RightToHealth – Jennifer Glinski

The majority of us do not think about our health until something is wrong. It is therefore fair to assume that even fewer of us think about our ‘right to health’ or know that a concept such as the ‘right to health’ even exists. But what if your day to day life was uncertain and unsettled thus directly impacting not only your health but also your treatment options? What does your health or the right to health mean when who you are or what you are experiencing determines the access and quality of care you receive?

In a groundbreaking piece of participatory action research funded by NHS Health Scotland, the Centre for Health Policy at the University of Strathclyde in partnership with the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, the Health and Social Care Academy, SNAP, Glasgow Homelessness Network, and the Mental Health Foundation, sought to answer those questions by conducting research alongside members of some of the most vulnerable populations in Glasgow. Peer researchers from the Mental Health Foundation and the Glasgow Homelessness Network met with over 80 research participants who were either refugees or asylum seekers, or persons who had experienced homelessness in Glasgow. The results of the focus groups and personal interviews by the peer researchers give a unique insight into the lives of persons who experience hardships and discrimination in their quest to maintaining their health and well-being.

This Friday, 26th August 2016, the University of Strathclyde warmly welcomes you to join us at the launch of the What do you mean, I have a right to health? research project. The launch will feature a presentation of the key findings and the opportunity for the peer researchers, who themselves have either experienced homelessness or the asylum seeking process, to share their experiences of health and the research process. The session will include the premiere of a new film by Kate Burton, ‘A Right to Health: the view from here’.

The launch will be followed by a talk by Professor Alicia Ely Yamin of Georgetown University on the elements of a human rights-based approach to health.

This event will be of interest to anyone with an interest in health and human rights, including those with personal experience of human rights issues, policy makers and practitioners.

To book your free place on this event visit the Eventbrite page.


“None of us is better than all of us”.

At the ‘2 Million Expert Voices’ ALLIANCE conference on 23rd May the afternoon brought a panel and Q&A session based on the Five Provocations for the Future of Health and Social Care. These have been generated through cross-sectoral discussion groups tasked to consider what is needed to transform Scottish society so that all citizens are able to thrive. The provocations are: courageous leadership; nurturing transformation; target culture; emphasising humanity and ceding power (see http://academy.alliance-scotland.org.uk/about-the-academy/five-provocations). The three panel members each focused on a different provocation in their talks.

Jackie Maceira, convener of the Scottish Disability Equality Forum, illustrated the importance of emphasising humanity when he described his experience of applying for self-directed support not for personal care but for a personal assistant so that he could remain involved and active in the community. He was taking an approach that was considered somewhat novel, trying to do things in a flexible way to achieve what was meaningful. Barriers that arose around which category to ‘put’ him in, or “but we don’t do it that way” were subsequently overcome, a social worker represented his request to the panel and ultimately he received the personal assistance. Jackie’s message of hope was that life-changing outcomes can be achieved when there is an emphasis on humanity.

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, addressed the issue of nurturing transformation, pointing out that people need to know what their rights are in order to assert them and hold duty bearers to account; something we need to work on in Scotland. Judith reflected that often there are individuals within services doing things as we want them to be done, but in order for this to spread and become the norm it is vital that those people and their positive practices are truly valued and nurtured. As Eleanor Roosevelt said “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home…”.

Oliver Escobar, Director of What Works Scotland, took both courageous leadership and ceding power as the prompts for his talk, although he highlighted that ‘ceding’ power might also be seen as ‘sharing’ power… or even creating power by involving 2 million experts. Oliver emphasised the need for a shift from an ethos of individual, ‘heroic’ leadership to recognition that the best leadership is collective, with facilitators bringing together people who need to have difficult conversations. Grassroots community work alone is not enough, he stressed; those at strategic level need to be engaged in order to influence investment, aid decision-making and effect transformational change on a large scale. Oliver advocated devolution to a local level and not only the participation of lobbies but actively seeking the voice of the seldom heard. An overarching theme was the need to move from seeing health and social care integration as a question of services to seeing it as a matter of power, politics and democracy.

Questions from the attendees stimulated discussion and comments about the politics of partnership, the importance of those providing a service having knowledge about human rights, and the view from Oliver that sometimes those collaborations which involve constructive conflict can actually be the most productive. The role of advocacy for individuals was a recurrent theme in people’s stories, with one person’s reminder that even those who are empowered and capable of defending their human rights can be just exhausted by it. Tokenism and overuse of jargon were cited as barriers to participation, while positive examples from as far afield as Melbourne and West Dunbartonshire were presented to illustrate willingness to cede power and do things in a different way.

Take-home messages for me? Particular challenges may include the necessary culture shift described by Judith – maintaining accountability but moving away from a culture of blame and defensive practice and towards a culture of looking for learning. I would argue that much work can be done in the early years, in schools and in parenting support to nurture such a culture. Opportunities for doing things differently are ripe in Scotland right now, with developments such as the new Mental Health Strategy and the work of the Integration Joint Boards. Above all, I was reminded of the power of collective action by Jackie’s “None of us is better than all of us”.

The 2016 ALLIANCE Conference and the Politics of Possibility

On 23rd May, the ALLIANCE – the national third sector intermediary for health and social care organisations in Scotland, held its annual conference, and at the same time celebrated its 10th birthday. In this blog, Claire Bynner, Research Associate for What Works Scotland, reflects on the people at the event, their activism, and the politics of possibility. Read More “The 2016 ALLIANCE Conference and the Politics of Possibility”

Purple Poncho Players steal the show at the ALLIANCE Annual Conference 2016

A welcome alternative from a full day’s powerpoint marathon, kudos goes to the ALLIANCE for mixing up the usual conference format and opening the show with some hard-hitting drama.  With no disrespect meant to the various other conference presenters, I would hasten a guess that it’s the opening performance by the Purple Poncho Players that will stick in the minds of most delegates as they reflect on the day. Read More “Purple Poncho Players steal the show at the ALLIANCE Annual Conference 2016”

Voice of Experts

I was delighted to be invited to the ALLIANCE’s annual conference celebrating the 10th birthday of this tremendous organisation. As a representative for The Spark Counselling – a leading third sector provider of counselling and relationship support services – we recognise the vital importance of the ALLIANCE. Shaping and influencing the agenda for those with disabilities, those with long term conditions and their unpaid carers has never been so critical in Scotland. Read More “Voice of Experts”

“Citizenship is belonging”

“Citizenship is belonging”

This was the phrase that seemed to sum up our recent Academy masterclass with Professor Michael Rowe of Yale University.  It was one of the contributions from a member of the People Powered Health and Wellbeing Reference Group in an excellent short film and a theme that resonated throughout the session.

Read More ““Citizenship is belonging””