Sadly, most of us will have stories of loss and undoubtedly of how at times perhaps we struggled to find meaning in the emerging world we found ourselves in and maintain good mental health.
I hope we will also have stories of resilience, adaptation, social endeavour and about the ways the world has changed for the better. Most of all I hope we all have stories of how, when we reached out for support, it came. These will be some of our stories.
But what about the stories of the marginalised and those whose voices are seldom heard? How do we hear them? And how do we ensure we truly hear them, rather than filtering what they say through our own lens; our own perception of the world.
In local government we have a duty to serve all of our population yet it’s too easy to become focused on the voices we hear because they are right in front of us, or those we hear because they make themselves heard. We have a duty to rebuild in a way that works for everyone including those whose voices we seldom hear.
Sometimes changes in behaviour indicate to us what people think, such as a significant reduction in the number of people who fund their own care choosing not to go into residential care.
Sometimes we have to ask people. The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey in May this year showed that just over 7 in 10 disabled adults (73.6%) reported they were "very worried" or "somewhat worried" about the effect that the coronavirus was having on their life (69.1% for non-disabled adults). This is a decrease compared with April, when almost 9 in 10 (86.3%) disabled adults reported this. However, a significantly higher proportion of disabled people compared to non-disabled people remain worried about effects of the coronavirus on their wellbeing, including in areas such as access to medication, groceries and essentials as well as health care and treatment for non-coronavirus-related issues.
Sometimes people come together in a way that requires us to listen. The Black Lives Matters campaign, which colleagues may not have been part of but will certainly have observed, has quite rightly pointed out the inequalities faced by different members of the black and minority ethnic communities. Full Council held a minute’s silence to reflect on this this month as well as the tragic death of George Floyd.
To help us better understand the impact of Covid-19 on people with social care needs, we’ve taken part in two important research projects. We’re also looking to carry out our own research in Derbyshire to help us in our recovery work.
Staff who have been working in the community support hub have reported how valuable they found connecting with local people through the shield and protect programme, reminding those who don’t usually have public-facing roles why they do their job.
By talking directly to people, they’ve discovered their everyday struggles, including the difficulties parents with autistic children have had due to their changed routines and the sadness of those who have been recently widowed. These are among the many important lessons I don’t want to be lost.
We are called upon sometimes not just to act, but to listen and to really listen hard. Now is one of those times and we need to find ways to do it.