Reflection on #Otalk about OT and Politics

I grew up with a family heavily involved in politics, Childhood memories are of Labour Party meetings and barbecues happening at the house.  Both my parents have been local councilors in their time.

My brother was equally as passionate about politics doing his degree in politics. However I only joined the party after the last election, feeling dishearten and passions reignited.

I think I learned quite early on had a different understanding from my friends about politics.  As children we were encouraged to watch the news and engaging debates.  I’m dyslexic and remember struggling greatly in English, apart from the days that we got to debate. I gained a much higher mark in my oral English than I did for written.  I think this is why I really enjoyed RE and drama as well.  I remember painting the scene of Tony Blair and Cherie outside number 10 when they won the election in 1997 for a GCSE art piece, (It was not very good.)

Daniel my brother has a much greater understand of the ins and outs of politics, a lot more than me and I enjoy learning from him often he has to explain complex films plots to do with historical politics!

Have I found in the eight years of being a qualified OT that my political persuasion has impacted on me as an occupational therapist?  I guess that’s a hard question, thinking back to being a student and having a placement in a prison, I found I was open-minded to the people I was working with, trying to separate, the person and the index offence.  I remember having conversation at the time about this with friends and fellow students that felt they could not to that, is that political persuasion? a sign of being left-wing?, or how I’m taught to think as a OT?

I do understand though that your political persuasion needs to be put to one side when you’re working with service users.  And have wondered whether it is correct for me to be open about my political persuasion with colleagues and service users.

Saying that’s I found it quite enjoyable being involved in the strikes over pensions.  At first being the only one in the team prepared to strike, however once I had spent some time explaining my reasoning and show the team some evidence about the effects, some did join me. I look back on that day with a smile on my face. I felt that we were embraced by the public, people stopped in the street and one person stopped with sandwiches and coffee and another some cakes.

I’ve also found in my career that services users power works quite well sometimes trying to get something changed it if you was a member of staff highlight issues it doesn’t always get seen to if you encourage service users to write letters of complaint about the things that are upsetting them that often gets noticed.  For example I remember having network issues for service users computer access. I had been trying to get it sorted will little luck, however once we help service users write letters of complaint about the fact that they couldn’t access this service, this appeared to help and things moved along they made the difference.

Tonight #OTalk reinforced my feeling that political understanding within the general public is lacking.  I really feel that politics should be taught at school even in its simplest form  – just understanding the difference between a councilor and MP understanding what the different parties stand for.

But tonight help me really understand and think about how much politics impacts what I do and influences the experience that services has

An Example I thought of during the chat was around the current bedroom tax and the impact that might have on a mental health service.  I can think of one lady that I’ve worked with who has lived in the house she was born all her life, now living there alone she has a serious mental health problems and the impact of having to move out of that house, Has resulted in a hospital admission surely the cost of what’s going to be a long hospital admission offsets what ever the government would have saved from moving her to a smaller home, in to an environment she was unfamiliar with, which in turn impacts on her occupational wellbeing. Also the recent cuts that councils are having to making has resulted in some of them closures of supporting living for people with mental health problems, resulting in the NHS hospitals struggling to find places to move people on to of our inpatient units again adding to costs!

I guess tonight talks has reaffirmed how important the political agenda is, as occupational therapist have a role in helping politicians and policy makers have a real understanding of people as occupational beings and how the changes that are made impact on people who are in need.

PS don’t even get me started on disability Benefit

Rachel

Published by otrach

Clinical Lead OT, working within acute and rehab mental health, 1/7th of the Otalk team. Lived experience of disability. All views expressed here are my own.

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