Toby Williamson works for the UK Mental Health Foundation in the role of Head of Development & Later Life, and is extensively published particularly around the subjects of Values and Mental Capacity. Here he talks about what we mean by ‘values’ in mental health practice, borrowing a phrase from Professor Bill Fulford who describes them as ‘action guiding words’.
He explores the importance of values diversity, reflected particularly in the expectations of how we set up multidisciplinary teams. Toby draws on examples from his previous role managing Impact, an assertive outreach team developed in the voluntary sector services run by Mind in Hammersmith & Fulham (west London).
Toby and Steve also reflect on the conflict between person-centred values upheld by the majority of public service practitioners, and the commercial values slowly creeping into UK public services in recent years.
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How often do we stop and reflect on our values and principles? Not often enough, despite the fact they influence who we are, what we think, what we decide, and how we present to the world around us.
It can often take a sudden message or event that sharply challenges our values that triggers that very reflection on our personal standpoint. One such message recently encountered in the UK Observer Sunday newspaper was an article examining the gulf between the wealth and focus of private equity firms increasingly owning and running social care services for our most vulnerable people in society. The senior personnel and owners/shareholders are on astronomic salaries and dividends, and by contrast, many of the workers are forced to provide the work for less than a minimum wage.
If we examine the NHS Constitution we can be forgiven if we ask the question ‘what price are we now placing on compassion and care?’ Meanwhile, the politicians of all persuasions seem equally complicit in the neglect of fundamental values-based practice, more concerned not to offend the powerful in their pursuit of value-for-money (aka greed and inequality). Our most vulnerable and needy in society should never become pawns in the game of profit, but the slow creeping takeover by private equity of the ownership of social care is making care and compassion commodities to be exploited.
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“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” [Dwight D Eisenhower].