Since Christmas is nearly on us, and the Apocalypse appears to have passed without incident, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on the past year.
Last Christmas, The Not So Big Society was only a couple of months old. Prior to starting the site, both Ermintrude and I had been running successful blogs that we’d felt compelled to shut down due to people causing trouble for us in meatspace. As result we’d both found ourselves at something of a cyber-loose end, and agreed to set up a blog together. Since then we’ve been joined by other writers, including Abe Laurens, Politicalnurse, Gary, Bonkesoul and Z3r00n3. I like to think we’ve evolved nicely into a forum of ideas and opinion about health and social care, with the occasional dollop of small-p politics.
Over time the readership of the blog has slowly but steadily grown, from 2,648 views in October 2011 to 14,466 in November 2012. A rather unscientific browse through our list of followers on Twitter suggests we’re being read by a healthy mix of professionals, service users, students, academics, politicians, campaigners and interested individuals.
We also get a steady stream of angry, at times abusive, messages from people who believe that social workers are engaged in a massive conspiracy to steal children. If I’ve learned one thing this year about building up a readership, it’s that quality is as important as quantity.
In terms of how people are finding us, the most popular search string (apart from the obvious like “not so big society”) is, believe it or not, “tin foil hat”, probably due to this post. The most popular sensible and non-obvious search term was “AMHP training”. There’s also a very high number of search hits for information about the John Smalley case, which I used to demonstrate how appallingly under-regulated the psychotherapy industry is. I suspect this may be because although it’s not a huge issue in terms of widespread media interest, there’s not many other places highlighting this problem.
Oh, and hello to the small number of you who found us with the following search terms.
“the queen should die”
“fascist child protection services”
“tin foil child”
“fifty ways to save pickles”
“cosmic schmuck principle”
This time last year, the spending cuts that followed the credit crunch were yet to be fully implemented. Now we’re beginning to feel the full impact, very possibly with more to come. I’d vaguely hoped that austerity would prompt a greater sense of compassion in society, that we would feel compelled to spend more time looking after our friends and neighbours in order to protect the vulnerable.
In fact the opposite happened. This year has seen a ramping-up of unpleasant rhetoric that tars and feathers the poor, the sick, the unemployed and those who work with them. Disabled people are all faking it. If you’re unemployed it’s been you don’t want a job rather than because you can’t find one. The poor need to be given vouchers instead of money so they don’t spend their benefits on fags and booze. Nurses are all lazy and compassionless. Social workers are all loony-left ideologues. Our political classes may not have been responsible for the financial crash, but they are responsible for turning the struggling masses against themselves.
I’m more angry at the government and the world in general in my mid-30s than when I was a stroppy, immature teenager. What’s that about, then?
If there is a Christmas message from this blog, I hope that it is this: despite what Margaret Thatcher claimed, there is such a thing as society. If there is a true measure of society, it is the way it behaves towards those in need of care and support. We did not create the ongoing austerity, but we live with it and face the consequences every day. We are the have-nots rather than the have-yachts. We believe in compassion and decency, and we oppose stigma and victim-blaming.
We are the Not So Big Society.