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Significant People With Significant Stories

March 21, 2017

Regular readers will know that I’ve been connected with the campaign 7 Days of Action. Over the past three days there have been some major developments in the direction of the campaign. I’ve been struggling to get my head around the changes and what has taken up a lot of my head space; where do I fit (if anywhere) in the new direction.

The big problem for me, and I hope this isn’t seen arrogantly, is that many people see 7 Days of Action as my campaign. It isn’t and never was. One day, I was minding my Facebook business & found I’d been invited to join a private messanger group. The group had been started by several mothers who had family members held in ATUs and we’re starting a national campaign to raise the profile of their situation and ultimately, to get their children out. The group invited several people to join in the hope that the more creative heads the better would bring about a successful outcome. It was my idea to write the 7 daily blogs focusing on one detained dude each day. I volunteered to edit the stories and publish them each day over the first campaign week. I think a big mistake we made was not to set up a Twitter account for the campaign so all the blog stories were tweeted initially from my account and once published, others retweeted and shared across social media. But that was my job within the campaign: it was the families’ campaign. I can see how the misapprehension happened but I tried consistently to put people straight when they assumed I was the leader.

Over the year, lots more people become involved which was great for the scope of ideas that went into the melting pot. A steering group developed and the personnel has changed over time. A second campaign, similar to the first, was run last autumn. Again, I took on the same role of editing the stories but there were many others working just as hard, or harder, on other areas of the campaign. It felt very much like a team effort to me and even though the subject matter of the campaign was harrowing, the creative energy was very invigorating.

A few months ago, something happened that I feared threatened the integrity of the campaign. I’m not going into details because I’m not going to break the confidentiality of the people involved. Lots of discussions took place and I think my reaction may have been over dramatic but I felt uneasy about what could be a compromising position. Others disagreed and the group took the decision to lay low for a while and relaunch the campaign this spring, possibly with a new name. Collectively, the name My Own Front Door was agreed as a way forward and ideas started to come together for the new campaign.

Then Dispatches aired their programme about St Andrews and the group started to see the way forward needed a new tone, a new way of operating. I posted an article about the hospital and my language offended some people. As the group clarified it’s direction, it decided a more collaborative approach was needed and that the angry energy that had fuelled the first year needed to be more considered, if the idea of establishing partnership relationship with providers, commissioners, professional stakeholders was to evolve. This made sense to me but knew it is not my style and that I’d inadvertently stitch things up in the future. So, I resigned from the steering group as that felt the best thing for the campaign. It still does.

Then yesterday, the group announced the decision taken by the steering group which is to run two things with the collaborative project, My Own Front Door running as well as the 7 Days of Action campaign. I must admit, it took a while for the penny to drop for me that that was what was happening. My gut instinct was that the two things aren’t compatible because the approaches and styles are so different. To be honest, I wanted the new group to be brave and run with their original idea as it may lose some people but it might bring a lot of new people on board too.

I couldn’t clarify my thinking though.

Until this morning. I was telling the Get Steven Home story at a conference in Scunthorpe. The other speaker was the wonderfully inspirational Luke Rodgers. Luke spent much of his childhood in foster care but has now set up an organisation called Foster Focus and one of its aims is to encourage care leavers’ creativity to create new and meaningful lives for themselves. Luke spoke about his care experiences from the heart, was witty, humble and didn’t pull any punches considering the audience was made up of social care professionals. His theme was the significant people in his life. It was very real and profoundly inspiring. We chatted afterwards and I realised we both shared a pragmatic view of telling our stories. We didn’t see what we were doing as partnership working. We don’t speak that language. We were telling real stories and what the listeners do with those stories is entirely down to them. It may change someone’s practice; it may not. That is not our responsibility.

It did help me understand that I tell stories. Whether it is mine & Steven’s story, one of the seven dudes’ story or a fictional story from Committee Room Five, that is what I do. That is my contribution to what we originally termed the ATU scandal. And I’m happy with that. I don’t lead campaigns because I have neither the skills nor the energy to do that. I don’t do collaborative working because I don’t have the language or the temperament to do that. I write stuff.

Walt Whitman – Oh Me, Oh Life

“That you are here. That life exists and identity.

That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse”.

Today, I remembered my verse.



From → Social Care

  1. swanarchie07 permalink

    Yes you tell story’s, it’s why I first started filling you, it’s why I still follow you, you tell stories that are real that are happening to people outthere, those stories are what make me look and think of how things can be different for my son, what I might after look out for, what I should be preparing for his adult life, so I thank you for telling just stories and keeping it real, of cause campaigning is important too and without people who are good at it we would also be in a a more complicated world so I salute you all that makes changes however big or small, we are all doing our best to make a better future for our young ones, and older ones xx

  2. Polly permalink

    Just to mention I read your blog and enjoy your writing style. My name is Polly and I am also a writer. Keep up the good work and continue saying it as it is. Even though I’m not on this site I still read your blog. Thank you for informing of the truth. It makes must difference to know I have not been alone as I also fight injustice with my own son and the services. My son also has autism and learning disabilities.

  3. I agree with swanarchie07.
    You tell your story and inform others, because you have the skill to write about very emotional experiences, and you bring a balanced view whenever you can. That’s so hard to do.

  4. Jayne knight permalink

    Always loved your stories Mark and yes you are an author and the importance of stories are that they are a very human way of us telling each other and passing down and on information about life to and morals and lessons, that’s how people get to know things it’s what we do best and how we always learned,
    Everyone has their talents and they all get used in various ways and some styles don’t suit everyone. But if the common denominator Is to use those talents in whatever way to make the dudes stories full of hope and joy in future not despair then we should all be finding our registration lace with that, ,are able to pull on each other’s humanity and use it and listening and learning are vital
    I’m a practical person and I say don’t care how you do it but make sure if people object then they are definitely getting success somehow getting someone out
    To me there’s no point objecting and being too busy doing that when 3000 plus people need to get out so use your energy wisely and join where you feel groups suit you or be a lone wolf if that’s better for you, Just do something no matter how small or big
    I don’t think my talents extend into too much debate I say just do it
    Mark Your stories inspire and give hope
    A fantastic gift and talent used well but you don’t need me to sound like the teacher doing your yearly report !

  5. Jayne knight permalink

    Haven’t a clue what a registration lace is. I think a person from the jargon land gets into predictive text and takes nice words and makes them into collaborators words and not resistance fighters. Beware they are always about. Registration lace what do you make of that Mark?

  6. weary mother permalink

    There has been a debate on your blog for a few weeks, on whether we parents are ‘entitled’ to tell stories about and on behalf of our sons and daughters..Or whether we steal their rights and their voice by doing so..

    There are stories about my sons life he could not or would not, ever tell. Some, he would be too afraid to tell for the people prompting them are part of the system that laid down his painful memories.. And being trusting and telling it just like it is, has bitten him hard in the past.

    My son has amazing stories, funny, moving and happy stories and given time and patience by the listener, he will them relate them and reassure those that seek it, that he can and will – always speak for himself….on everything.

    Some of our older learning disabled sons and our daughters learned early to edit their lives; to be very nice..and pragmatic around which role to play, which story to tell..and in which context to…. ‘be’ ….

    Their other stories must be told by us…

    And out of long experience…. of…I don’t believe pragmatism and being nice ….always cuts it.

  7. Diana Foulkes permalink

    You Mark are very significant to a lot of people’s life’s,which is why I love reading about you and Steven and how you have managed to get him the care and his space in the world. I know this has not been easy and I know that it is still a fight to make sure that Steven is cared for in exactly the way he and you wish. By sharing your stories it has helped us all to dare to hope that we can and will get our loved ones out of ATU’s or in my case stop them going there in the first place.

    Unfortunately I do believe we have to work with these people who try to control our lives, because they want to be in charge but we have to make them understand that actually we are in charge. By sharing all your struggles and sharing all the dudes stories (and I use the word stories but really they are not stories this is life for our loved ones) we let the world know that life with a loved one that needs a little help to navigate this world is not all a picnic with lots of help available.

    7days of action has helped me share their stories and let’s the world know that things are not right in the care system. For me all the dudes need their stories telling as often and as loud as possible so that things change.

    Things have to change for the better and if that means getting cross, I’m up for that, I would stand and shout on the roof of the Houses of Parliament if it meant change.

    Keep it up Mark, our loved ones stories need telling and very loudly. Xx

  8. simone aspis permalink

    Interesting blog and for over 20 years of working in the DP movement we have had similar issues – however what I can say is that the best campaigns are the ones that combine the anger with the diplomat – a very good example was Rights Now (consisted of orgs having to engage with a wide range of stakeholders doing the parliamentary work etc) whilst Disabled Action Network went out on the streets and changed themselves – there does not need to be a compromise if the 7 Days and My Front Door campaign work together – whether we like it or not, not everyone wants to engage in an angry manner or engage in particular types of actions – some DP want to chain themselves to the railings and get arrested whilst others want to do the parliamentary work or getting professionals to support our work. What is the key is what is the ultimate goal of the campaign is the same and its coordinated. We at ALLFIE have two campaigns running together We Know Inclusion Works (that’s for people who may want to take a less angry approach – we use this as an opp to build alliances with other orgs, parents etc) We also have the other campaign “Education Not Segregation” which is the campaign that we use for direct actions and to resist any of attacks on inclusive education (big for special school survivors, parents who have been forced to send their kids to special schools etc) – we use both campaigns in a different way – but to achieve the same GOAL – that is to end segregation – no compromise on our wonderful strong message – please do have a look at our lovely website to see how our campaigns work together – feel free to contact me via ALLFIE as well. This new campaign – who is on the steering committee – any speaking up orgs and campaigners with LDs. If the campaign excludes people who want to get involved – then surely this goes against inclusion – something I hoped you Mark would appreciate – we can not campaign for people with LDs inclusion, if we exclude them from the campaign because the only way is one way only – there is many ways to swing the same cat! Best campaigns I have been involved in are ones that have used a range of tools and methods that will max mobilization of different groups of people including those with LDs.

    • LizzzieD permalink

      Simone, you are clearly very committed to causes we can all support. I was myself strongly involved in campaigns for inclusion over 30 years ago – and I am glad that much progress in that direction has been made. Sadly, as a teacher, I have not been too impressed with the way it has been implemented. I am currently tutoring a young woman who works in a large comprehensive where an admirable committment to integration is not matched by the training and support given to those who are tasked with providing it.

      I’m with Mark. We all have our stories, and wen they overlap that can be a great source of strength and comfort. I absolutely agree that the “stories” of those with LD should be heard and heeded. But we also have to have some respect for where they diverge, and one size solutions become a bit of a problem. I do remember both parents and students who did NOT favour inclusion as an automatic solution. Like you, I still think it is, but it is the resources and commitment that has to be fought for – any way that works.

  9. Frannie permalink

    You are inspirational The knowledge I have gained from reading them has been powerful for us as a family trying to support our young dude at home and out of ATU land.

  10. Just to add again that success isn’t only about keeping dudes out of ATU land, but out of bad care situations as a whole.
    Those families who still do the care are wonderful.
    You, Mark, have good care staff who are an example to other carers.
    To work as a team with other carers is the best I can hope for.
    Parents are in charge (as Diana F says) in so many ways that others don’t acknowledge on paper, but good professionals know this.

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