The Comedy Store is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Not only did
it “change the face of British Comedy” – at least according to
David Frost, it’s also part of a much broader movement committed to
making people laugh. Eva Fraser, of the Facial Workout Studio, has
argued that “people who regularly exercise their facial muscles can
expect to delay middle age sagging by 10 years”.
This may be good news for those among us, who would like to avoid
the cosmetic surgeon’s knife. But in a field like social care,
which at best is seen as worthy but dull; fun, humour and laughter
are at a particular premium.
One person who has risen to this challenge is Kate Hull Rodgers, of
HumourUs. Billed as “Humour consultant to health organisations,
businesses and governments on five continents”, she is herself a
psychiatric system survivor. She offers laughter therapy,
“humour-obics” and a 12-step programme that I have found a lot more
helpful than anything psychiatrists have ever offered me. Kate’s
motto is: “Those who have fun get more done!” As she says:
“Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine.” She has worked
successfully with hospice patients and staff, mental health service
users and workers and many more.
This year also sees another silver anniversary – a rather more
ominous one. This is the coming to power of Margaret Thatcher.
There can be no doubt that she and her governments changed the face
of social work and social care, perhaps for ever. They loathed
social work’s liberalism and indebtedness to social science. They
derided its respect for difference and its sense of society.
Social care has a horrible history of abuse, neglect,
institutionalisation and segregation to rise above. Thatcher
overlaid this with her beloved privatisation and dodgy consumerism.
Now community minister Stephen Ladyman is seeking to develop “a new
vision for adult social care”. The views of service users still
have to be adequately represented in this vision for the future.
But once they and those of other key stakeholders, such as
practitioners are included, it will have the potential to offer a
crucial marker for the future. There’s a big “but” here though.
However good the vision, no matter how inclusive or powerful it is,
if it is not matched with the commitment, skills and resources that
it demands, both locally and centrally, it is likely to end in
farce. The vision and the intent must match. There will be few
smiles and less laughter if they don’t.