Calling all Health and Social Care Writers

Given Ermintrude’s announcement today that she’s retiring from blogging, this seems like a good time to put out an invitation to those with an interest in health and social care and feel like they have something to say.

Ermintrude’s retirement is by no means the end of this blog. There’s not only me writing here, but also the likes of Politicalnurse, Gary, Bonklesoul and Abe Laurens. Over time our traffic has grown from 2,648 views in October 2011 when the blog was first set up, to 14,468 in November 2012 (the traffic reduced a bit in December due to Christmas, but has rebounded strongly in the new year). I see no reason why the Not So Big Society can’t continue to grow and develop.

Even so, Ermintrude was and is an informed, incisive and prolific writer, and her departure leaves a gap.

So, if you’re interested in such topics as health, social care, social policy, poverty, inequality and the occasional dollop of small-p politics, then this invitation is for you to come and write for us.

We don’t have a “house-style” as such. There’s not a minimum or maximum word length for blog posts, though I tend to think anything over 1500 words is probably better broken down into a couple of separate posts. Obviously, posts shouldn’t include anything offensive or libellous, and writers are expected to adhere to the social networking guidelines of any professional regulators that they’re registered with.

Interested? Leave a comment to this post, or e-mail me on thus_spake_z at hushmail dot com

Twas The Not So Big Society Before Christmas

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.

New site rules – please read before commenting

In the past week I and others have posted expressed skepticism that the Rotherham UKIP case is likely to be as clear-cut as it’s currently being presented in the media. Others have responded giving reasons why the stated version of events may not be so implausible after all. Some people have given good and informed arguments as to why the latter may be the case, and I’ve invited one of them to make a guest post giving their analysis. Either way, an investigation is taking place, so hopefully we’ll all get some answers eventually.

Alongside this debate, there’s also been a slew of comments about which all I can say is…..Oh dear.

It’s one thing to say why you think Rotherham Council are likely to have made a bad decision. It’s quite another thing to accuse an entire profession of being evil baby-stealers, or part of a hidden political agenda. I think that’s inaccurate and also quite offensive to many dedicated professionals who do a difficult and often unthanked job.

Also in the past few days, I’ve had to delete a comment where the author posted a YouTube video of him interviewing his wife about the ongoing child protection case against them.

As a result of this, a couple of commenters have had their comments unapproved, and I’ll also be keeping a stricter eye on the comments threads.

Just to be clear, here’s the sort of thing that might get your comment unapproved or not approved in the first place.

  • Referring to Social Services as “the SS” or “the Stasi”.
  • Accusing another site user of being part of a hidden agenda, based on them having a differing opinion to you.
  • Conspiracy theories involving Common Purpose, a organisation that strikes me as operating some deeply boring public sector management training, but which is unlikely to be part of anything sinister.
  • Making public appeals for support over care proceedings that have been initiated against you. Apart from being against the site rules, doing this really, really isn’t going to help your case and in fact may make it worse for you.
  • Dismissing care leavers who give a different view from yours as “token”.
  • Telling someone their opinion is invalid because they work for Social Services or the NHS.
  • Declaring basic rules of client confidentiality to be evidence of a secret conspiracy.

I appreciate some people may not appreciate this infringement on their freedom of speech. But don’t worry, there’s already an online forum where your views will be appreciated.



This Not So Big Society in Mentalists

This Week in Mentalists is a weekly digest of the best of mental health blogging. It was originally started on the now-defunct Mental Nurse website, but is now on its own dedicated blog.

Each week a different blogger takes it in turns to compile an edition. This week’s edition is by….oh wait, it’s me!

Go have a read.

I’m Spartacus! Oh wait, I’m Zarathustra!

Back in March of this year, the Mental Nurse blog, which I was editing at the time, closed its doors. The immediate reason was fairly mundane. I’d accidentally borked up the auto-renew on the domain name, and before I could resolve it a cyber-squatter swiped the domain. As it happens though, there were other issues going on in the background, which made it wise for me to get off the internet and keep a low profile.

I can’t tell you what those issues were, which is a real shame because it’s an absolute potboiler of a story. The story is not exactly over, but what does appear to be over is the part where I was at risk. I hope one day to be able to tell the tale, and the most spectacular episodes may be yet to transpire. But for the moment it must remain the greatest story never told.

Even though I was at risk, blogging is seriously addictive and I did pop up here and there on various blogs. Quite frankly, I just couldn’t stay away. Most recently I was doing so under the username Veruca Salt. Apologies for the sockpuppeting. Also apologies to those of you who thought I was a woman. The gender confusion has created some interesting sensations for me. 🙂

I don’t intend to resurrect the Mental Nurse blog. There’s too much water under the bridge there, and it already has a worthy legacy in the This Week in Mentalists blogging community. I’d like to thank Pandora and her co-authors for creating such a sterling online community out of the ashes of Mental Nurse. My intention now is to carry on blogging here, along with my new co-blogger Ermintrude2. The theme of this site is, to quote the sub-heading, health and social care as if people mattered.

These are difficult times for health and social care, and the worst times may be yet to come. I suspect we’ll have a lot to talk about.