Social care leaders’ heroes for 2007

Not just my husband

My hero for 2007 has to be Peter Bennett, not just because he is my husband, but because of how he coped when I had an operation in May. Usually I am his carer, and before my operation I asked social services for extra help while I recovered we got nothing. Peter did everything. I am proud of him and that makes him my hero.

Eve Rank has learning disabilities

Keep on dancing

My hero is GMTV presenter Kate Garraway. Kate kept us all rooting for her at home as a game but ultimately doomed contestant on Celebrity Come Dancing. She went from being an incompetent dancer to an almost capable one in a few short weeks and surprised us all by overcoming injury and weekly public humiliation from the judges, as well as coping with the ego of her professional dance partner, Anton Du Beck. On top of that she is the partner of Derek Draper – surely a lot for any girl to cope with!

Roy Taylor, strategic director of community services, Kingston Council

Total respect

The person who inspires me is a care leaver in Camden who, despite her experiences before she was taken into care and her emotional difficulties while in care, is now employed by Camden as a Total Respect trainer running training schemes with other young people for social workers, managers and foster carers. She also helps run our drop-in service and gets young people involved in services and participation. What she has achieved is amazing – she has used her experiences to help us create a better service for other young people.

Grete Lund, senior practitioner, Camden Leaving Care Team

Keen on Keane

My home town is Sunderland and one of the key challenges there is the promotion of community cohesion and social inclusion in the face of poverty and industrial decline. Step forward Roy Keane for doing more to put a smile on our faces than any policy or politician. He is a true red and white Santa!

Bob Hudson, visiting professor of partnership studies, Durham University

True grit

Jane Tomlinson is the undisputed hero of 2007. She epitomised everything that is to be applauded in a human being despite an illness that would eventually take her from her family. Having been told seven years ago that she had only six months to live, Jane employed that greatest of strengths, Yorkshire grit, to prove that she could battle for the sake of her family and others in a display of genuine altruism and courage, values so often missing in today’s world.

Dominic Tumelty, service manager, Early Intervention and Family Support Services, Stockport Council

Happiness beside the point

There are two people I would nominate as heroes. Both are self-funding older people living in residential homes whom I met while doing fieldwork. The first told me that it was the wrong question to ask when I enquired whether she was happy living in the home. The best that anyone could expect, she argued, was to be comfortable. The second person had ended up in a care home in effect having been pushed out of her own home by her adult son. Both of these people were heroic in their quiet dignity, and for me were a reminder of what needs to change in the choices offered to people needing support from social care, and of the vulnerability of many of those making their own arrangements.

Melanie Henwood, health and social care consultant

A brilliant Brand

Russell Brand is my hero. I rush to read the back page of the Saturday Guardian sports section, not to see how Pompey have fared but to read Russell’s column. His brilliant and cheeky writing is a fabulous antidote to a week of council life. And you have to admire a man who can apply eyeliner so accurately!

Sarah Mitchell, director of community services, Isle of Wight Council

Cutting unit refuses to be cut

I would like to choose as my heroes all my work colleagues at Remploy’s Birkenhead Central Cutting Unit who have been fighting for five years to stop the Remploy board closing us down. We have written letters to the government and protested outside company meetings and at other factories on the company hit list in all weathers and despite our disabilities. We are not only fighting for our jobs, but for future generations of disabled people.

Adam Jones, Remploy employee, Birkenhead Central Cutting Unit, the Wirral

Denise, Denise

My hero for 2007 is Dame Denise Platt (pictured). This year, facilitated by CSCI and backed by Denise, a number of service user groups submitted a bid to run a plenary session at the annual social services conference in Bournemouth. The LGA turned down the application, but Denise fought for service users to have our voice heard. In the end, we were able to deliver a session – albeit not the one we had originally intended. Definitely one of social care’s doers, not just a talker!

Sue Bott, director, National Centre for Independent Living

Adventures on hold

Ann Tucker is my hero for 2007 for showing exceptional love and humanity in the face of relentless adversity. A decade ago, Ann and her husband were planning global adventures as they headed towards retirement and their children became adults. Now, she’s battling to ensure the needs of her mentally ill daughter are addressed, raising her nine-year-old granddaughter alone, and working full time because she can no longer afford to retire. Ann is fun, passionate and amazingly resilient, and puts the interests of her grandchild first. It’s time the state recognised the importance of carers in Ann’s situation by providing the financial and practical support needed.

Cathy Ashley, chief executive, Family Rights Group

Cold turkey this Christmas

My hero of 2007 is musician Pete Doherty. I’m sure there are worthier heroes, but I doubt whether there are any more influential ones. Pete’s facing cold turkey this Christmas. He’s out of rehab and on tour. His band, tour bus and gigs are all now dry. He’s even rebuilding his relationship with his estranged son. If this tabloid favourite can very publicly turn his life around, it’ll prove an inspiration to a generation of teenagers. Pete could do more for tackling substance misuse than a legion of hand-wringing politicians and well-intentioned professionals.

Mike Broad, group editor, Community Care

Enduring love

My heroes for 2007? Arsène Wenger and Paul Weller for being consistently great and classy with it? My colleagues in Havering children’s services who have performed outstandingly all year? Yes, but all too obvious.The true heroes are my family and friends, in particular my twin daughters, Lily and Ruby, born earlier this year. Alongside their two sisters they’ve taught me all I need to know about unconditional love and the deep meaning that comes with being a parent, for which I’m for ever grateful.

Chris Martin, service manager, partnerships, children’s social care, Havering Council

Go West

Our “experts by experience” make a fantastic contribution to social care but often also have caring responsibilities. Richard West (pictured) is one such person. He has a learning disability, is partially deaf, and is a carer for his partner, who herself has physical and learning disabilities. It’s a significant challenge, but Richard is passionate about services for people with a learning disability and achieving recognition for carers. He is not a prime minister, a president or a general, but heroic all the same.

Paul Snell, chief inspector, Commission for Social Care Inspection

Inspiring legacies

Karen Wilman, Helen Blackwell, Roy Webb, Ian Light and Menghi Mulchandani were five service users who died before their time over the past 12 months, and they are my heroes of 2007. All played a major part in taking forward the rights and interests of service users. They also brought humour, vitality, warmth, fun and expertise to our world. It’s easy to forget how fragile life may be for people who use disability, palliative care and mental health services. I mourn their passing, but am inspired by their example.

Peter Beresford, professor of social policy, Brunel University

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This article appeared in the 13 December issue under the headline “Heroes”


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