Why I hope Ladyman’s vision makes us smile

    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.

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