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Some people need a damn good listening to!

VOICES listen to me

By Steven Talbot
Steven is an independent deliverer of training, who contributes to the VOICES learning programme

It is often the case that when we attend training, we hear anecdotal stories of customers and service users and what we, the ‘WORKERS’, have done or could do to support them.  We’re frequently told by very clever people what we can do to support people.  We nod along, munch away on our buffet, (‘delightful!’) and make our notes and think, ‘Well wasn’t that nice’ and return to work.  Sometimes we put what we have learned into practice and other times we revert back to type, we’re stressed, we’re ambivalent, we’re set in our ways and anyhow, we remind ourselves that we do a very good job.

We hear on the news of the hundreds of people left waiting in corridors at A and E and it leaves us feeling that the NHS is in dire straits.  We read about chronic under funding and we are enraged.  Then we vent on Facebook and Twitter or sigh and tut and discuss with our friends, ‘How has it got to this?’  To put it bluntly, it is quite difficult to empathise with a statistic. When we hear the story of the nurse who has worked a fourteen-hour shift and is exhausted, when we listen to the family of the patient and their barely contained fury, when we finally see the patient, in pain, lost and afraid, it has a far greater impact than any over-arching news story.  When we move from data and numbers and diagrams to life stories, we are moved; we act.

As we know, there is a great difference between hearing and listening.  There’s the famous quote, ‘some people need a damn good listening to,’ and never a truer missive was spoken.  Throughout my career as an educator I have met with and interviewed people experiencing multiple needs.  It is often the case that their stories have a dramatic impact on both me and my learners. I, along with the learners have been inspired and moved by the voices of people from Stoke, who have spoken of their lives; their life choices, their lack of belonging, their community, their supportive families, their ability to survive.  The learning environment created by Voices means that people with multiple needs have a platform in which they can be seen, heard and listened to.

Over the past few months I’ve worked with individuals from charities, housing associations, local authorities, the NHS, and assorted other organisations.  It has been truly inspiring seeing how well they have worked together.  I’ve watched as different learners have presented their ideas; laughing and learning, changing and adapting and soaking up the brilliant learning environment- stating how they are going to take on board what they have learned, not just from their colleagues on the training, but also from what they have heard from the voices of people from Stoke-on-Trent.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Catherine from Fenton who takes part in my compulsive hoarding course,

“It just got worse and worse, if it wasn’t for what the housing officer did for me, well, I think I would have done something to myself, that scares me…   Do you know what, I found all these pictures of our Mick, and I think I’d just buried him, you know, like when you bury grief.  Sad isn’t it? I have him framed on the mantle piece, I have room now, air to breathe; it really is different.”

As Catherine states, learning with Voices is making a real difference.


Steven Talbot

Steven Talbot Consultancy

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