I’m genuninely inspired by the amazing people every day that just keep working, volunteering and fighting for the benefit of people and communities across Bolton. Through their roles either running groups, leading charities and social enterprises or driving community networks, people just keep making Bolton a better place by giving their time and commitment. As the Chief Executive of Bolton CVS I’m amazed by the change that is achieved by groups of people with nothing, or perhaps just a few hundred or a couple of thousand pounds each year to tackle social issues, to connect people, to enable others to reach their potential and to help people out of a hole.
Regardless of strategies and plans this all happens – it never stops; it doesn’t stop when it’s cold or wet and it doesn’t stop when the sun shines. It doesn’t matter if the indicators on the dashboard are red or green; this excellence in communities happens anyway, it’s not about measurement!
Where we place our value as a borough needs to shift in order to continue to let the people in our neighbourhoods make this important change happen. No matter who takes the lead on the locality plan, the economic plan or any other plan in fact; it remains that people in the borough want to see the change in their own lives and on their own doorsteps.
People inspire pride in other people in Bolton by simple acts such as litter picking or other acts of kindness. There are inspirational heroes who not only give their time to support others with their mental health or drug issues, but offer their time to befriend an older person or mentor a young person. It is these people that make the real difference and we can shape the future by listening to these people and what they say, understanding why they do it and creating the space to enable more people to give their skills, time and passion.
It’s important to reflect on the fact that once someone steps over the GP’s door, goes into A&E or walks into the ‘One Stop Shop’ that it stops being prevention and it’s more often by that stage a problem. They’re poorly, they’re unwell, they need help – often the damage has been done and then it becomes damage limitation and crisis intervention.
In order for leaders in our borough to truly mean what they say about prevention, they need to start prioritising people as prevention; focussing on the action that people take for themselves and the things that they do for others that happens without a pathway, prescription or pamphlet. Prevention happens through people being connected, being active, through communities coming together and by people making positive changes.
Everyone knows that good quality care, proper housing provision, tackling poverty and ensuring that our communities are safe will have a positive impact on Bolton as a whole borough and we must also make sure the strategies that focus on these aspects aren’t disconnected, that people aren’t left out in the cold and that the associated plans make sense to everyone.
We must also ensure that words like ‘assets’ don’t creep into our everyday language. We need to talk about people, community, caring, pride and places as that’s how people connect and what they relate to. We need to start talking to people in a language that they know and ensure that the people in communities understand that they hold all of the power. I believe that way more people will make a positive change and do something different for themselves and for others.
Let’s try harder to ensure that people realise that they’re their own prevention.
8 July 2018.