Yesterday, Jeremy Hunt (Health Secretary, UK Government) announced plans to recruit almost 10,000 staff to mental health posts over the next 4 years. The money would be drawn from the £1.3bn ‘committed’ to improve mental services (with the aim to bring services in parity with physical health). As a mental health campaigner, I was initially encouraged by the headlines that greeted me when I awoke on Monday morning. But does it all add up?
I have been campaigning for better mental health support for several years, especially for young people and for mothers (and fathers) experiencing mental health problems in the perinatal period (see www.andrewmayers.info1). I am an academic psychologist at Bournemouth University, specialising in mental health. Through my external commitments and professional practice, I belong to a number of campaign groups (such as the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and I contribute to the All Party Parliamentary Group for perinatal and infant mental health group, 1001 Critical Days. I was driven to join these groups because of the chronic underfunding in mental health for decades (or probably ‘forever’, as Paul Farmer, CEO Mind Charity, put it yesterday). Through my work with local and national mental charities (such as Dorset Mind), I have seen the impact of cuts to services, reduction in public health and local authority funding, and the effect of austerity on communities. I was also compelled to tackle public stigma towards mental health, which ostracises sections of our society and discourages seeking help.
Let’s not forget that 1 in 4 of us will experience some mental health difficulty at some stage of our life. If you have not encountered problems, you no doubt know someone who has. Some conditions, such as depression, are a major burden to health services, and yet mental health only receives a fraction of the overall health budget. So, surely, I should welcome the promised investment and the commitment to recruiting the workforce to sustain that? Well, it’s a little more complex than that. Partly as a result of our campaigning, we have seen some encouraging funding pledges, especially in perinatal mental health. But there needs to be more. The promised £1.3bn investment in mental health needs to be put into context. Some might say that this funding only partially replaces what has been lost over the last decades. Where pledges have been made (even recently), the actual funds have failed to reach front line services. But let’s say we give Mr Hunt the benefit of the doubt this time. He claims, to properly invest in mental health, we need a strong workforce to implement that. Hence the call to recruit thousands of new workers. That’s OK, in theory, but what is the reality?
Part of the recruitment drive is to employ a further 2000 nurses by 2021. Surely that has to be a good thing? Well, it depends. To ensure that these nurses are in post, fully-trained, by that time, they would need to start their undergraduate courses by September this year. And yet, we are seeing a reduction in the numbers of applicants for nursing posts following the introduction of fees. There is little incentive for people to enter nursing, with the prospect of high debts to pay for the fees, and then years of chronically low pay. Why not waive the fees? Why should future nurses be paying to get the training needed to benefit society? Then there’s nurses pay itself. While the pay rise cap remains, where is the reward for hard work (especially in the highly demanding and stressful role of mental health nursing). When questioned on this yesterday, Mr Hunt sidestepped the issue, focusing instead on praising how hard nurses work without addressing the problem with low pay. Hunt says that he is confident that they will recruit the nurses. But how convenient it would be, should the recruitment fail, to use that as an excuse not to spend the £1.3bn pledged. We might hear “well, we made the commitment, but no one took us up on it, so we will spend the money elsewhere”.
It’s not just about the pay either, or just nurses. All mental health staff have incredibly stressful jobs. Many of those staff enter the profession because they have their own lived experience and want to give something back. That experience is very powerful; I have seen that in the contact that I have with staff and service users. However, very little (until recently) has been done to protect those staff from the impact of working in those challenging conditions. Investment is needed in ensuring that all staff have access to proper clinical supervision. It’s also not just about staff working directly in mental health services. All health professionals (GPs, acute hospital staff, practice nurses, community teams, etc.) need mental health training, so that (at the very least) they can properly signpost and/or refer to specialist services.
Of course, most of what I have said to this point applies to ‘patients’ with chronic or acute mental illness. There are considerably more people with sub-threshold mental health problems who do not qualify for treatment. But many still need support. That’s where the third sector comes, especially through local mental charities. In many cases, someone with (say) relatively minor mood or anxiety problems might simply need structured, effective, peer support. Local charities can provide that expert support, especially through peers with lived experience. However, as Patron and Trustee for Dorset Mind, I can attest that our biggest challenge is finding the funds to runs the services. Very little comes from local authority, public health budgets, or local commissioning. A great deal comes from grant funding. Simply by providing these local services, we can prevent so many people escalating into more acute mental illness, and becoming a great burden on NHS budgets. Surely, one answer is to use LA and/or local clinical commissioning to ensure that all areas have access to expert services, away from the NHS.
So, was I happy with Mr Hunt’s announcement yesterday? I welcome any funding, and certain applaud a drive to increasing staffing. However, this was not properly thought through. There is a much bigger picture that is being missed, quite probably because those making the decisions simply do not have the understanding about mental health that is needed to truly make the changes that are needed.
Dr Andrew Mayers
Character and its Returning Importance for our Times and the Future.
It is perhaps a cliché to remind ourselves that we live in uncertain and changing times. However, many people sense that the apparent stabilities and certainties of the late 20th Century, however illusory (for example, ongoing growth through capital market mechanisms, hegemony of the West in a range of spheres, relatively stable (if confrontational) political regimes, liberation and performative through information technological advances) have experienced rapid transformation. The presence and operation of ‘character’ too may be in transition, even, in danger of dissolution.
Character, what it is, how it has been formed and the consequences of different aspects of character playing out in varying situations seems to be a perennial feature of human life ranging from long-standing philosophers such as Aristotle and Burke to more contemporary commentators including, by way of example, Sennett.
Character has been a perennial issue for humankind and in some ways, partly due to its longevity as a concept and concern, may seem like a rather old-fashioned term and concept. Nevertheless, in the contemporary context(s), it is timely to centre stage a deeper investigation into the nature and operation of ‘character’ in organizations, institutions, society and public life. At a basic, even simplistic, level of analysis and as a starting point it might be suggested that character can be considered through lenses of, what might be termed, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ character. Here we might begin to list traits which we believe would, or even should, constitute ‘good character, for example, honesty, integrity, decency, consideration for others, reasonableness, generosity etc. ‘Bad’ character (often seen as prima facie juxtaposed to ‘good’ character) potentially encompasses characteristics such as dishonesty, cheating, being disingenuous, selfishness, hubris and so forth.
However, the present discussion considers that there is scope to widen the debate(s). Therein, the rediscovery and reinvention of character for the individual and in public life in the 21st Century can take place. This is likely to embrace a wide range of domains and tropes including: character and morals; character and control; character and the panopticon; character and leadership; character and training and development; character and memory; character and the political; learning about character in and through, fiction; character and faith, character and biography/autobiography; character and spiritual capital, character and organizational ambidexterity; character and context…. there exist myriad avenues to explore which could offer potential solutions and enhancements for society as a whole.
Professor Peter Stokes
Leicester Castle Business School
by Judy Rees FRSA
Whoosh! How did that happen? I’ve just realised that in two years I’ve gone from shyly attending an RSA London pub Meetup to leading a huge experiment in Fellowship digital engagement. Let me share my story and some of what I’ve learned.
That Meetup in the Theodore Bullfrog in June 2015 was one of the first RSA events I’d been to, apart from public lectures at the House. I was on a personal campaign to extend my business network. I’m a freelancer, running training and team-building events over videoconferencing for people all over the world, so it’s easy to get stuck at my desk. But finding clients usually means meeting people face to face.
I’d just been reading Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organisations. It’s hugely inspiring — all about how distributed leadership, a focus on purpose and an invitation to wholeness are transforming workplaces worldwide. You might have heard RSA talks by Laloux himself or by Jos de Blok, whose Dutch home-nursing group Buurtzorg is a standard-bearer for the movement. Buurtzorg is structured so that nurses organise themselves. They have no “managers”, and have cut costs to the health service by 40 percent, while improving quality of care and employee satisfaction. Staff are expected to behave like adults, and they do. Jos de Blok received the RSA’s Albert Medal in 2014 for his work.
It felt like an RSA Meetup was the right kind of place to find great people, but I wasn’t expecting what happened next. As I ordered a drink, I glanced at the name-label of the guy next to me. “My name is: Doug Crawford. Talk to me about: Reinventing Organizations”. Blimey!
We only had time for a quick “Hello!” before the meeting was called to order. A young man announced that Fellows could form Networks around things they were interested in. “Just come and talk to me about it,” he said.
I looked at Doug. He looked at me. “Let’s do it!” we agreed. And that was that. I love the idea that anyone can be a leader, that anyone should be a leader. So I don’t think I could claim to be a fan of self-organisation and distributed leadership and not step forward into an opportunity like that.
Reinventing Organizations seemed like an idea whose time had come.
We quickly formed a small committee, gave ourselves the name RSA London Reinventing Work Network, and had no trouble pulling together a packed house for the first network event on 1 December… or the next… or the next…
But we wanted to go further. We’d given our group a specific purpose: to encourage the adoption of these “reinvented” working practices by Fellows, their organisation, “and perhaps the RSA”. How could we make that happen? It was really hard to connect with Fellows outside of meetings: the digital infrastructure just wasn’t there. Every communication with Network members had to be sent out by RSA staff. There was no way to reach the Fellowship more generally.
With the help of the London Fellowship Councillors, Pilar Orti and I got an audience with Matthew Taylor in summer 2016. He was friendly and gently encouraging, saying he’d like to see more Fellow-led activity across the RSA. But he was very clear that the RSA wasn’t going to break down its hierarchies any time soon, or indeed to change any of its ways of working. For him, it seemed, there was no contradiction between these things.
There was election pending for Fellowship Councillors. After a bit of soul-searching I filled in the paperwork, thinking that an election campaign would provide a platform to talk about these issues.
Distributed leadership is hard work.
Stepping up requires courage, and energy. As the Network Lead, I was constantly being asked to take decisions on behalf of the group. Every time I did so, I was effectively discouraging others from stepping up to do so. If the official leader always decides, there’s no reason for others to do so.
I don’t think it’s OK to expect Fellows to take the risk of leading more activities, within a structure that severely limits their ability to do so. In particular, preventing Fellows from communicating directly with each other stops them from discussing what should be done, and gaining the social support which brings the confidence to do it.
I was angry. Most organisations would give their right arm to have thousands of well-connected thought leaders clamouring to do more, to contribute more, as members. Most organisations spend thousands building a sense of community amongst their members and supporters. But not the RSA. Was the Fellowship as a nuisance, good only for paying the bills?
Other Fellows apparently felt the same frustration. An ill-tempered discussion broke out on the RSA LinkedIn group between Christmas and New Year: “What’s wrong with the RSA in three words?”
I could easily have joined in. But instead I watched and waited until a consensus emerged: what we actually needed was improved Fellow-to-Fellow communication. Technically, it seemed, that would be pretty easy to do. Emails started flying. Rod Hyde, chair of the Fellowship Council, supported the idea of making something happen. 83 Fellows joined an initial steering group…
Fast forward six months. We have a lively Fellows Forum online here. This self-organised project by Fellows, for Fellows, has over 700 members. It’s not perfect, but it means we can connect and exchange. More than 4000 posts have been made. Geographical barriers are crumbling – we have Fellow members from Australia, Africa, America and all over Europe.
We’ve run our first videoconference events—an InConveRSAtion with Vikki Heywood, chairman of the RSA Trustees, and an RSA Ideas Online. Both earned rave reviews from the Fellows who participated.
The Fellowship Council has backed the Fellows Forum, set up a Liaison Group to help, and offered a small budget. And perhaps more importantly, it has called for staff to support an ongoing videoconference events series, and to collaborate with Forum members and the Fellowship Council to create a Fellowship digital engagement strategy.
It’s very exciting — and a bit exhausting. But I think we’re demonstrating that Fellows can self-organise to make things happen, and perhaps even changing the RSA in the process.
And I’ve certainly built my network. I’ve met some of the world’s most interesting people, full of big ideas and the energy to make them happen. I’ve stretched my leadership skills and learned loads. I wonder what happens next?
We need your support to get our message out there, and together we can help democratise our economy. Our case for the Citizens’ Economic Council shows how important it is that we all have a say in economic policy, and highlights the contribution we all can make
The Citizens’ Economic Council is a programme giving citizens a say on national economic policy, and influence the future of the UK economy.
The process is being overseen by an independent advisory group. The Council will be a catalyst for sparking a broader public discussion about the goals and priorities of economic policy, through an open online resource library and by promoting citizen deliberation over economic policy at events in communities up and down the country.
We want to build a stronger economic democracy in the UK through informed engagement and discussion. A group of 50-60 citizens will undertake a journey of economic inquiry during the course of the 2-year programme to deliberate and innovate on economic policy.
If you would like to contact us about the programme, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
We had 15 participants, Reema Patel gave a good breakdown and the session lasted 1 hour and 22 minutes. Hosted by David Wilcox. Watch full screen on YouTube.
The RSA Citizens’ Economic Council is proud to launch, in partnership with Economy, a toolkit promoting economics for everyone:
Zoom meeting 26th June 2017 1850
Did you know that a new Fellows’ Forum has been set up online to help Fellows connect, network, discover, share, create, engage, facilitate change, act, make a difference?
- Yes, I’ve already joined.
- Yes, but I’ve not joined yet, I’m thinking about it. Why should I join?
- Yes, but I’m not going to join
- No, how do I join?
- No, and I don’t want to join, not my thing.
- No, and although I am active online, I don’t think I’ll bother with this one.
- Not yet another RSA Forum, we’ve been through this before, we have other Forums, aaaaaarrrrrgh!
Here’s a segmented guide depending on which answer applies in your case:
Answer 1: Yes, I’ve already joined
Thank you. I hope you’re enjoying it. Please give the Facilitation Team feedback so we can improve it. Please post some more – start your own topics, post on others’ topics, connect with other Fellows, encourage other Fellows to connect and engage. Please let the Facilitation Team know if there is anything stopping you from posting so we can address it.
There have been other online Forums in the past but this one is new because it has been set up by Fellows themselves, is actively supported by the Fellowship Council (with necessary support from RSA staff) but led by the Fellows as a self-organising group of volunteers. RSA staff support includes sending out invitations to join but all the facilitation is by Fellows themselves.
That is really just context though. The real answer to ‘why should I join?’ is “to help Fellows connect, network, discover, share, create, engage, facilitate change, act, make a difference“. In other words, to do what most of us became Fellows to do. Many Fellows have said “when I became a Fellow, my primary need and expectation was to be able to connect with other Fellows of like mind (or a different, challenging mind, with shared values)“. The online Fellows’ Forum is designed to facilitate this.
A pilot group of almost 500 Fellows are already registered, from all over the world. It is a Fellows-only space, not public and has so far proven to be a safe, supportive environment, although RSA Fellows by their nature can be challenging in their ideas and exchanges. The Forum intends to have few ‘rules’ to maximise the flow of communication. Thus far, there are really just two key protocols – be respectful at all times (and never personal) and do not publish any content from the Forum elsewhere without the express permission of the author/originator.
If you do decide to join, go to Answer 4. below.
Glad you’ve heard about it. No problem if you don’t want to join. Your call. And no problem if you choose to join at some future point in time. We hope the Forum has longevity.
If you change your mind, the details for joining are given at Answer 4. below.
Easy. Just follow the link below. Have your Fellowship Number ready. That’s all you need. Join, and you’re in.
Answer 5: No, and I don’t want to join, not my thing
No problem if you don’t want to join. Your call. And no problem if you choose to join at some future point in time. We hope the Forum has longevity.
If you do decide to try it, the details for joining are at Answer 4. above.
Answer 6: No, and although I am active online, I don’t think I’ll bother with this one
No problem if you don’t want to join. Your call. And no problem if you choose to join at some future point in time. We hope that you will dip in at some point to see if it is a useful way to help Fellows like yourself connect, network, discover, share, create, engage, facilitate change, act, make a difference.
If, on reflection, you do decide to join, go to Answer 4. above.
Answer 7: Not yet another RSA Forum, we’ve been through this before, we have other Forums, aaaaaarrrrgh!
Yes, those of us who have put in many volunteer hours to set up this new Forum know how frustrating it is. We are frustrated too. We have had many other past attempts at creating and sustaining an online Forum or online community for RSA Fellows. We have tried many different platforms.
We also have the RSA LinkedIn Group with 3,700 members in it which you can still use. We just thought that the LinkedIn Group was limiting and not engaging enough.
If you want to join, go to Answer 4. above.
And finally…let’s give thanks to those who have made this happen
There are a number of Fellows who have committed huge time and energy to this R&D project. Fellowship Council Member Judy Rees has led from the front, the side and the back, as required by the situation. Fellowship Council Chair, Rod Hyde, has given it unwavering positive support.
Philip Bryan has been a rock throughout, an active poster and facilitator, and a continuous stream of practical, technical support. David Wilcox has driven activity, summarised activity and recovered relevant history with tremendous expertise, kept searching for ways to connect Fellows together, and facilitated a process of using other digital tools to map out how we have connected. Check out the interactive map that David has given us in collaboration with Drew Mackie.
Chris McLean, Lucy Griffiths, Harold Raitt, Alison Edmonds, Lorena Hodgson, Pilar Orti, Margaret Inman, Peter Cuttriss, and Peter Clitheroe have all made significant contributions. My apologies to anyone else I have not named here who has played their part.
In Australia, today (26 May 2017) is ‘National Sorry Day’. It is worth reflecting on for four main reasons.
Firstly, we should as a nation and as citizens of this great multi-cultural nation be continuing to say sorry for the appalling treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in their own lands; the disinheritance; the discrimination; the exacerbated disadvantage through the policies of successive governments of all parties; the Stolen Generation…the list is long, painful, reprehensible, and totally indefensible.
Secondly, we should as a nation and as citizens of this great multi-cultural nation be continuing to say sorry for the ‘The Gap’ and our abject collective failure in our efforts to ‘Close the Gap’. It is exceptionally rare to have so clear a problem that all our ‘fixers’, including all our engineers, managers, policy advisors, communicators, technical specialists, and community engagement experts cannot fix. We must do better and say sorry for our poor and inadequate performance to date.
Third, we should celebrate the fact that as a nation we have now accepted there is something to apologise for; we have apologised (notably Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation in 2008), we have seen an outpouring of emotions (relief, joy, pent up pain, a sense of justice, a feeling of finally being acknowledged, an ability to now cope with the present because past events have finally been painted as wrong, unjust and cruel).
And fourth, we should acknowledge the power of an apology – a sincere, heartfelt apology – in our day-to-day lives and work. When was the last time you said sorry to a work colleague or loved one? This past week, the past month, in 2017, not for some time, never?
I have run many workshops where I ask people to split into groups based on how often they apologise. In many cases, people say ‘never’ and then usually go on to say ‘…because I’ve never done anything wrong’. Such people usually have blind spots, their colleagues can quickly and easily think of situations where they could have or should have said sorry, and an interesting, sometimes challenging, conversation takes place. Other people say ‘I apologise all the time”, those who don’t then struggle to understand why they would do that ‘if you’ve not done anything wrong’ but it is usually explained as follows: ‘I don’t think about it in terms of who was right or who was wrong, I just think in terms of what is the best thing to do to be able to move on and maintain the relationship’. An apology is sometimes just an outstretched hand.
If you’ve never said ‘sorry’, then you’ve missed an opportunity to build a relationship and help a friend, family member or colleague – and you’ve probably not looked hard enough for something to apologise for. If you haven’t said ‘sorry’ for a while, think about someone you love and respect and haven’t spoken to for a while – and say sorry for not being in touch for so long. If you know someone who is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, you too can say sorry for the way their peoples and communities have been treated in their own lands. And National Sorry Day is a good day to do it, although the next week is National Reconciliation Week so we’ve got a whole week to get that apology out there.
Let us know how you get on. Or simply post your ‘sorry’ message here in a reply message that can be read by all to reflect on.
William Tyndale was arrested and jailed, convicted of heresy, sentenced to death by strangulation, and then burnt at the stake. That was how the Monarchy and the Church dealt with ‘traitors’ and threats to their power in 1536. We’re a bit more civilised today – in most countries – but we still have government organisations, professional bodies, corporates, and NFPs with their own ways of condemning those who try to do what William Tyndale was doing 500 years ago.
So what was Tyndale’s crime? He translated the Bible into English and tried to make it available to the masses. Indeed, Tyndale’s Bible was the first to be published in English. Previous attempts had been subject to the death penalty, and the burning of any texts discovered.
We are supposed to now live in enlightened times and in a digital communications age where information is freely available. We are told that openness and transparency are essential for a modern democracy and for a business or organisation operating in this ‘age of accountability’. We have the internet, wiki-based sharing of knowledge, open source software, instant messaging, citizen journalism, company information freely available on websites, school performance results available to parents, in some countries at least.
And yet, we still have an army of people out there trying to stop us getting access to information and trying to ‘control the message’ just like the Churches and Governments did in the 16th Century.
We still have professionals who exclude people via their technical language. We have scientists who keep us at a distance despite all the attempts of popular science programmes to let us in on the secret. We have judges and lawyers tying us in knots with legal jargon and Latin phrases that no-one else ever uses these days.
We have government advisers, spin doctors, media relations advisers to the bishop, corporate communications departments, and many others who now form a new profession which prides itself on ‘controlling the message’ and deciding what the masses can have access to.
William Tyndale advocated a simple truth. If the Bible really was the source of wisdom and guidance the priests said it was in their weekly sermons – drawing from the Greek, Hebrew, and Latin texts – then why not make the whole book available in English for all English-speaking people to read and benefit from? In essence, Tyndale was saying why not allow people to find their own salvation in their own interpretations rather than have someone else pick selected translated text and give people one particular interpretation based on the view of a minister or church?
But here we are in 2017. The ‘need to know’ principle is alive and kicking in many institutions and organisations. We still have thousands of boards, cabinets, committees, senior leadership teams, and managers who operate on the same basis as the Churches did in Tyndale’s day. They give us information when they think we need it, with their particular spin on it, plus selected evidence that supports their interpretation, not the full source material, so without full openness and transparency.
For many managers, the power to control the message and the information flow is the only power they have left, and they are hanging on to it until the bitter end. And it will end. To not accept this is to swim against the tide – and swim they do against the waves of new affiliative, collaborative, deliberative, democratic, and facilitative styles of running organisations that have evolved for the real world we are living in today.
Society is shifting permanently in the direction of greater openness and accountability. Digital communications technology, citizen journalism and participative democracy are changing our world in a way that governments, institutions, companies, organisations and managers cannot resist. They will still put up the barricades, get the wagons round in a circle, disappear into their bunkers, and fool themselves into believing they are still in charge – with their command and control structures and hierarchies – but time and reality will prove otherwise.
It is incredibly threatening for the control freaks that so many managers and communicators are. They will continue to react as the King and the Church did in Tyndale’s day. Non-complying employees are sent to metaphorical dungeons. Non-aligned voices are strangled. Whistleblowers are metaphorically burnt at the stake. Annual Reports and official communication no longer read like Latin but they appear in a new form of language – Sanitised English – thoroughly washed of any undesirable messages or alternative interpretations of source material.
These days there are many complaints about politicians, the media, and manipulative activists putting out ‘fake news’ but we have an institutionalised inauthenticity in a lot of our daily stream of controlled communication that emanates from governments, businesses, sporting organisations, big charities, etc. As soon as any organisation is large enough to think it has something to lose, it starts to try and protect what it has, and its first line of defence is trying to control information and the narrative around it.
William Tyndale’s immediate legacy was to make ‘The Good Book’ much more accessible. He had four challenges – translating the text, publishing the translation, getting the publication to a wide audience, and trying to avoid the forces trying to stop him making it available. If Tyndale were alive today, he might be using online translation programs and publishing other key texts on his website. Life would be much easier from that perspective.
However, he would still have people trying to stop him publishing certain material, and trying to control the narrative around it. If he worked in a government organisation, church, professional association, corporate or big charity, he would probably think the attempts to ‘control the agenda’ were – as a young social media commentator might put it these days – “so 16th Century”!
Paul Vittles FMRS FRSA FAMI GAICD is open and transparent. It has generally been good for his career (occasionally limiting), his clients, his colleagues, his partners, his stakeholders, and his mental health!
If you need the password to view the map here : http://rsafellows.org/interactive-map-fellows-forum/ Please contact me @pjfb on the forum