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Archive for the ‘motivation’ Category

It’s an interesting day for news.  The justice committee have revealed today that probation officers spend just 24% of their time interacting with offenders.  This has been blamed on a “tick box”, “bean counting” culture.  But the question is who sets the targets that create the culture? … A rhetorical question – it’s the civil servants responding to the MPs.  But, it’s not the same MPs as the news reports today are pointing out, the current government are blaming the last lot!  This simply doesn’t stack up, not least because ‘the current lot’ are in control when the other news story of the day was about the new policy for inspections of social workers.  Surely something like this is going to send teams into the offices to ensure all the boxes are ticked and beans are counted…

It’s really tough getting the balance right, but the way to get the best out of people is to put the most you can into them.  One of the reasons we don’t take government funding for our work is to ensure we spend as much time as possible supporting people and keep the paperwork to a minimum.  This is crucial with our service users – click the empathy exercise at the top of the page to get an idea of why people need some really intensive support to change their lives.

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Today we are going to the funeral of one of our service users.  In the ten years that I have been involved in this kind of work I have been to far too many of these.  As with any other funeral it is a time to reflect on the good memories we have, which really helps us to forget about the challenges people face and ensure we bring their humanity to the fore.

The guy whose funeral it is today was a fantastic story teller; and he had some great stories.  What I’ll remember about him is the way in which he always told his tales in such hushed tones that you had to lean in to hear him properly, it created fantastic anticipation for what you were about to hear…

The other side to this for us is how the other people we support cope with the death of a friend.  For many it is a double edged sword, not only is there the grief of a lost friend to deal with but also the reminder of how fragile their own life could be.  We aim to use this fragility as a way to power motivation to change, but sometimes it pushes people deeper into their feelings of hopelessness.

That’s why we can never lose hope!

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Today “The House of Lords science and technology committee said ministers seemed to be mistaken in their use of what is known as the nudge theory.”  ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14187802 ) Nudge theory is the idea that changes are made to the social and physical environment without legislation that encourage (or discourage) specific behaviour. One example of this would be for fast food restaurants to have salad rather than chips as the default side order.

The committee made the point that a balance of approaches should be used rather than relying solely on ‘nudging’ people.  This seems a blindingly obvious ‘finding’ for anyone who has worked personally or professionally around changing problematic behaviours.  Perhaps this is more about where power and influence truly lies rather than personal perspectives on what is a sensible approach. 

My point here is there is already a very well balanced set of approaches to something like illicit drug use where the agenda is quite simple.  The problems with balanced approaches and the use of legislation become far more complicated when things like minimum prices for alcohol and supermarket food labelling are on the agenda.  The challenge with the use of legislation here is that some influential organisations and individuals might lose money; suddenly there is apprehension about moving forward.

It’s great to see all the ‘courageous’ stands by politicians about ‘the press’ in light of the News of the World scandal.  But it seems unlikely that the same courage is going to follow through into other areas.

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The Children’s Society yesterday reported on the numbers of pre-teen runaways increasing (link below) and the risks that these young people face once they have fled their home or care. The report noted that a child runs away from home every five minutes in the UK and one in three of these will go unreported.

As a society we seem easily able to understand the impact that this type of thing has on children and how unacceptable it is that they are left in such a vulnerable position. The report also said:

“Agencies are unaware of the scale and nature of the problem and often fail to see runaways as children in need. Yet the report reveals that a quarter of them are forced to leave, often fleeing violence, abuse and chaos at home.”

For us we know these young people who miss out on a good start in life and then slip through the net of services all too often end up as adults with some fairly challenging support needs. The tough bit for us to swallow is when these people aren’t children anymore ‘as a society’ we seem to think differently. But they are the same people with the same traumatic pasts, they simply can’t be seen as ‘helpless’ anymore even though they are officially vulnerable adults.

A few hundred years ago these people were known as ‘sturdy beggars’, and were punished for begging when they were physically able to work. Today society is still obsessed with people’s physical ability to work and blames ‘choices’ to become drug or alcohol dependent adults or their irrational and problematic behaviour as the reason for their situation. As the above shows we have to get away from the physical and have more capacity to work with the emotional and psychological state if people in this situation are to find a way to reach their own potential.

http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/report-worrying-new-trends-increasing-pre-teen-and-male-runaways

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According to a BBC report today:

The UK performs poorly in an international league table showing how many disadvantaged pupils succeed “against the odds” at school.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has studied how pupils from poor backgrounds can succeed academically.  It says that “self-confidence” is a key factor in whether such pupils succeed.

The UK comes behind Mexico and Tunisia in the table – with the top places taken by Asian countries.  Among leading economies, the UK is in 28th place out of 35. Among a wider range of smaller countries and regions, the UK is in 35th place out of 65.

The full news report is at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13794591

 

This report cites ‘self-confidence’, ‘expectations’ and ‘internal motivation’ as factors that can help more disadvantaged children have more educational success.  So with the topic of child poverty on the radar we must concede that financial positioning is not solely responsible for the factors that then go on to lead to poor chances of social mobility. 

Does all that mean an ‘I blame the parents’ response is acceptable?  Most of the people we support have low self-confidence, expectations and motivation; usually to the most extreme degree.  However, with the right approach many people can and do develop and flourish in these areas.  Feeling sorry for children and blaming parents simply leads to tomorrows parents repeating the habits of the past. 

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We had a great soup-run in Leeds last night.  Our purpose is to provide a good atmosphere for people who are out on the streets –not to attract people to the streets.  The food we offer, from our perspective is a means to an end – we are not trying to feed the hungry but to engage the disengaged!

Once we have the right people there the idea is to have a pleasant and welcoming environment where anyone who attends feels valued and listened to.  From this point we can then signpost people to appropriate services.

Last night I had two great conversations; one with a guy who is living in a hostel and really starting to struggle with coping with life in there.  An hour of listening to his concerns about what his life had been in the past and what it is at present and some questions about what he wanted changed his focus from ‘sacking off the hostel and going back to rough sleeping’, to feeling able to speak to his key-worker about his worries and trying to make the placement work.

Another guy had gone into a mental health crisis a couple of days before and was feeling lost under the weight of his own anxiety and the complexity of 3 different services that were trying to meet his needs.  A long chat that switched from very serious consideration of his own mental health to ‘banter’, sport and taking the mick out of just how green our soup was, worked well for him.  All I had to provide was a straight man role for the banter and some genuine interest in his challenges.  He clearly needed to talk to someone who overtly had no agenda; just wanted to listen.  He obviously felt better for it and seemed to have started to make sense of his own feelings.

It was a fantastic evening: great company, great banter and great opportunities to encourage some people with some tough challenges to find ways forward that might just work for them.

I love my Job!

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 In a recent survey conducted in day centres (http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/HiddenTruthAboutHomelessness_web.pdf ) 62% of the respondents stayed in a ‘hidden homeless’ setting the night before.  That means they were rough sleeping, staying with friends or sleeping in squats.  This snapshot data demonstrates that many of those who are homeless are not necessarily engaged with any formal services that are supporting them to address their situation. 

It’s fantastic that a survey has picked up on this point.  At Simon on the Streets we are working to address this point for those with the most complex support needs.  We find that for some people it’s not just the case that they happen to be getting missed by mainstream support, but are often avoiding it due to their history and how they feel about ‘the state’, formal settings and ‘normal people/society’.  Through street outreach work we specifically target this group and work hard to bridge the gap between them and the services that can meet their needs.

Clive

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