Gareth Parry: ‘I knew a lot about mental health but I didn’t recognise it’

Gareth Parry has spent almost three decades supporting people with disabilities and mental health issues find work, but a recent mental health crisis of his own has given him a personal insight into the remit of the organisation he leads.

Parry has only ever worked for Remploy, starting as a trainee administrator and becoming chief executive a year ago. Problems in his personal life two years ago triggered depression. At the time, he was overseeing a government contract for workplace mental health support. “I knew a lot [professionally] about mental ill health, but I didn’t recognise it,” he says. “Suddenly I was on the other side. It reinforced the importance of organisations like Remploy; work gave me routine, structure, focus, when everything else in my life was in chaos.”

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LinkedIn: Connect online & join Neil Thompson’s HUMANSOLUTIONS discussion group

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We know social care is in cataclysmic crisis. Now we must find a solution

Last year it became OK to admit that social care was in cataclysmic crisis. Yet so far there is little sign that 2017 will see any high level recognition of the scale of change needed to bring about any kind of long-term solution to this key social policy. The prime minister has been reluctant to say more than that her government “is starting internally to look” at the issue. Hardly reassuring when even the Care Quality Commission has talked of social care reaching a “tipping point”.

Poor public understanding of social care and its low political priority, coupled with issues of chronic underfunding and massive demographic change, continue to be a recipe for policy inaction. New Labour ducked the one real chance for change it had in 1999 when the Sutherland Commission offered its progressive recommendations.

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Effective Teamwork: The importance of working together

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Neil Thompson’s Lesson for Living – Slow down

Life can happen in a blur if we let it. Doing things quickly can easily become the norm, adding extra – generally unnecessary – pressure to our already fairly pressurised lives. As is so often the case with life’s challenges, what can easily arise is a vicious circle that we can get trapped in. We feel under pressure so we do things quickly. Our lives then become less satisfying, so we try to squeeze more in (rather than relish what we already have); to fit more in we have to do things more quickly, and that makes us feel more pressurised. The more pressurised we feel, the greater the temptation to do things quickly. And there we are, locked in, and we will then find it a struggle to get out.

A clear and important example of this is eating. Most people do not savour their food, they do not get maximum pleasure and satisfaction from it. People grab something quickly for breakfast, perhaps, in a rush to get to work or school or to get to the day’s tasks. Similarly, for many people, lunch is a quick sandwich, often while they are doing something else at the same time. And evening meals are often not as leisurely and enjoyable as they could be…

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What can the UK learn from how Finland solved homelessness?

A report by EU housing organisation Feantsa has found every country in the EU in the midst of a crisis of homelessness and housing exclusion – with one exception: Finland. So how has the country done it? By giving homeless people permanent housing as soon as they become homeless, rather than muddling along with various services that may eventually result in an offer of accommodation.

It’s an idea is being considered in the UK by communities secretary Sajid Javid. We spoke to Juha Kaakinen, chief executive of the Y-Foundation, which provides 16,300 low cost flats to homeless people in Finland, to find out more.

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The health workers that help patients stay at home

Every Monday morning, in a meeting room within earshot of the bells of Wakefield cathedral, a group of healthcare workers help to stage a mini-revolution. Nothing that you read in the next few minutes may strike you as particularly surprising.

Yet the experimental manner in which they are working together in this corner of Yorkshire is being seen as a possible way to improve healthcare across the country, and save the NHS money. At the table is a healthcare assistant, called Kay, Karen the physiotherapist, then Jane the occupational therapist. On the other side sit two mental health nurses both called Rachel, and finally Sue Robson – another mental health nurse who’s been with the NHS for 37 years.

“I’ve seen many, many changes, and this is one of the most exciting,” smiles Sue.

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How to Do Social Work: A basic guide from one of social work’s leading authors

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Millicent Fawcett to be first woman statue in Parliament Square

The suffragist Dame Millicent Fawcett is to be the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Parliament Square, the prime minister has announced. The equal rights campaigner who dedicated her life to getting the women’s vote, will stand alongside Sir Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.

Theresa May said Dame Millicent “continues to inspire the battle against the injustices of today”. All 11 statues in the central London square are currently men. The new statue will be funded using the £5m fund announced in this year’s spring Budget to celebrate next year’s centenary of the first British women to get the vote.

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Groundhog day: UK stuck in rut of high inequality

Official Households Below Average Income statistics show that thanks to modest income growth across the distribution, the Gini measure of income inequality before housing costs has increased only slightly from 34 per cent to 35 per cent. While it’s not a statistically significant increase, what is hugely significant is that this is yet another year of failure to create a fairer society. You’ll see a lot of people today stating that inequality is the same as it was 25 years ago. For the avoidance of doubt, this is categorically not a good thing. That our current situation is comparable with inequality levels following a meteoric rise through the late 1970s and 1980s is no cause for complacency, let alone celebration.

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Neil Thompson’s Lessons for Living: Avoid drift

Drift is the term used for when we become unfocused, when we lose sight of what we are doing or what we are trying to achieve. Ever gone upstairs and, when you get to the top of the staircase, you have no idea why you went upstairs; your mind is blank? That’s drift. Ever been on the way to a meeting, got distracted then found yourself wondering where it was you were going? That’s drift.

But there are more serious versions of drift. For example, an important meeting can get bogged down in detail and lose track of what was supposed to be discussed. A worker can lose sight of what they are trying to achieve or what their role is. The result can be, at the least, wasted time and energy or much more serious in terms of important, perhaps crucial, things not getting done…

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