Time for some risk-taking

Rob Greig explains why he feels passionate
about implementing the Valuing People strategy.

Despite warnings from peers that the post of
learning disability director of implementation is “a very difficult
job”, Rob Greig remains refreshingly optimistic.

Appointed in November, Greig’s personal
enthusiasm for the daunting task ahead of him is tangible. In many
ways, it reflects his belief in positive risk taking – something he
feels is too often missing from work in the learning difficulty
sector today.

“Your starting point is you should always try
something unless there’s a clear demonstrable reason as to why the
risk is too great,” explains Greig. “I fear that we are battling a
culture that is the opposite, and which starts from the perspective
of needing to justify why you should do something.”

Armed with only “loose change” and a team of
eight regional development workers, Greig undeniably faces a
struggle to deliver on the objectives of the first white paper on
learning difficulties in 30 years.

But he remains confident and insists that
money is not everything. For him, the change Valuing People
requires in organisational and cultural behaviour is the big thing.
“What we’ve got to do is change the way in which people in
organisations behave. That way, the services will begin to change –
it will naturally happen. If you’re listening to people with
learning disabilities, if you work in partnership with other
organisations, and if you’re being evidence-based, then you will
develop and change.”

Greig sees himself and his team as performing
a different role to that of a conventional civil servant,
describing their position as “at the interface between the
Department of Health and the people on the front line”.

He explains: “Our way of operating will need
to reflect that. We will need to learn to respond to the needs and
demands in the field and political expectations within government,
and marry those both in our style of working and also the things
that we do.”

Greig admits that he will need to be a more
careful about what he says than in his previous post at the
institute for applied health and social policy at Kings College,
London. But he insists he will be able to work within the
constraints of his job without compromising his beliefs

This can only be made easier by the fact that
Greig describes the philosophy that underpins the white paper as
synonymous with his own philosophy of life.

“[It] is very much the philosophy that I’ve
had in all my work in learning disability and the mental health
field, which is very much my personal political philosophy – about
empowerment and rights and citizenship. So it’s an area that I feel
very comfortable with because the things I’m doing in my work are
the things that I believe in.”

Greig knows that his main task is to ensure
that the white paper’s vision becomes a reality and that its calls
for change are not ignored. To do that without the backing of
legislation will be difficult. But that is where he believes
learning disability partnership boards will come into their own in
ensuring Valuing People’s implementation through their
accountability to local service users and their carers.

“If services are not being delivered, if
change is not happening, if what is being delivered is not what
people want and need then, for the first time ever in most cases,
the people taking those decisions will have to explain and justify
that to people with learning disabilities and their families. And
that’s a more difficult than an internal management decision, which
is how things have tended to happen in the past.

“That’s why I think the whole advocacy
development agenda and the role of people with learning
disabilities on partnership boards is so crucial to this – because
it will begin to change the culture of decision making and

– A full transcript of this interview is at www.community-care.co.uk

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