- Something goes wrong. We pick up the phone or turn up at a building and expect a public service to sort things out for us.
- Public services get a demand for a service. They expect to decide what to provide (if anything) and how to provide it.
OK it’s an exaggeration. In Wales, some people and public services are already re-shaping their relationship. The reality is that the relationship between all public services and members of the public needs to change for everyone’s sake.
- We need to take more responsibility for ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbours and our communities.
- Public services need to remember they are the servants, not the masters. They need to provide what can only be provided collectively, like street cleaning. They need to support us to lead our lives without taking ownership of our lives.
Like the chicken and egg, both need to change but who needs to make the change first? Usually we hear stories of public services changing and driving forward a changed relationship. Barod’s story started the other way round.
Barod is a workers cooperative. Two of us were expected to rely on public services to help us get into work because we have a learning disability. We tried that. It didn’t work. We were given services to make us ready, but the truth was that we were already ready. We gave up waiting for public services to change. Instead, we took responsibility for ourselves, joined with others who shared our vision and started our own business, Barod (Welsh for ready).
We couldn’t do it all ourselves. We needed support from professionals in publicly funded services. We needed them to listen, find a way to provide what we knew we needed and, most importantly, believe we could succeed.
We could not develop that relationship with most publicly funded services. Some gave us a list of what they would offer – which didn’t match what we needed. With others, the price for getting their help would have been losing control over our lives and Barod’s direction.
We were able to have that relationship with two publicly funded services. Without their support, Barod would have struggled. Neither tried to take us over. Neither paraded us as examples of how great their services are. Both listened. Both worked with us to find solutions. We owe a huge debt to both. Thanks, Wales Cooperative Centre and Enterprise Mentoring.
Our message to others:
- Whether you are a chicken or an egg, it’s a good time to just get on a.nd do things differently
- Public services, be encouraged, there are people making plans and taking responsibility for their own future. Keep your eyes open for them and when you find them, listen to them, believe in them and support them.
- Members of the public, be encouraged, there are publicly funded services out there who will use their professional skills, contacts and funding to support you to achieve the impossible. You may need to keep looking, but you will find them.