Are you treated with dignity?
OK. Let’s try that again. When you are most vulnerable, most in need of care, are you treated with dignity?
It is shocking the numbers of people who are not – one in five patients in hospitals for example.
I have learned something of the value of dignity over the last ten years from the Finnish writer and philosopher, Pekka Himanen. He argues that dignity is an inherent part of the human condition. Working with young people, he finds that most people struggle with the question “Who am I?” and search for who they want to be.
So it is encouraging to read our new research on businesses that are trying to bring dignity into their care services.
Cartrefi Cymru was until recently one of a number of well-motivated but somewhat ‘top-down’ charities working in the field of social care.
The values of the charity always centred around the care user, but as with so many others, it was what they users did not have that prompted a charitable response rather than what they did. It was their needs rather than their dignity that set the agenda – their incapacity rather than their capacity.
Led by Adrian Roper, the agency has now converted into a charitable co-operative. The trustees saw that a co-operative model, which gives the people that rely on the organisation a say in how it is run, could restore dignity to a service starved not just of resources, but of empowerment.
“It’s still early days, but the benefits of being a co-op already include better feedback about how we can improve what we do, a significant increase in activities which make our communities better for everyone – at no extra cost to anyone – and a host of new contributions from local suppliers and community members” says Adrian Roper.
With a turnover of £21 million and 1,250 employees Cartrefi Cymru Co-operative – the largest rural social care provider in Wales – is now a society accountable to the stakeholders that are involved with the service – its users, employees, and family supporters. The structure, which was developed with support from the Wales Co-operative Centre, offers a way to integrate the voice of these key partners into the organisation’s governance. Each needs to be treated with dignity.
There is more to health and social care, of course, not least the resources required for a service starved of funding. But talking about money without talking about voice and ownership will not tackle the dignity deficit.
To be treated with dignity is for those around you to respect who you are and the capabilities you have.
Ultimately, this is a question of power.
Do you treat people with dignity?