Sunday, 3 May 2015

Making a Difference in a Week of Carers, Conferences, Chancellors and Christenings

It was a bad week for Twitter last week. The social media company saw a massive 31% drop in their share price (down to £24.44 a share on Friday) as news that their revenues were down by $20m reached the market. On top of which the numbers of people using twitter each month had fallen from 243m to 241.6 users. I felt a little guilty as I didn't really get to use my Twitter account until the end of the week, not that I am saying my meagre use would have made much of a difference! However, colleagues in the School continued to make a difference through their use of social media.

The 38th Student, Service Users and Carers Conference was once again a huge success. Many thanks to all my colleagues who facilitated the day. The feedback captured on Twitter revealed the value of exposing all our students very early on in their studies with us to the personal accounts of patients and carers experiences of health and social care services. Likewise, colleagues used social media to raise awareness of the struggles of the Manchester South Central Foodbank, whose supplies were running low.

The MSCFoodbank is one of the 400 food banks run by the Trussell Trust network, who in collaboration with local churches and organisations provide emergency food to those in need. Last year that was some 913,138 people. Reading my Twitter timeline at the end of the week, I could see that many of my colleagues had already made donations and I am sure many more will too in the days to come. You can find out more about their work here. Of course it’s sad that in a modern day Britain so many people have the need to use food banks – that’s the closest I can get to making a political statement during this period of purdah.

I was faced with the same problem on Thursday. I had been asked to deliver a key note paper to the Future of Mental Health Care conference on what the political priority agenda for mental health services in the UK might look like. It was a slightly difficult path to tread in developing a nonpartisan analysis of the main political parties record and plans for mental health services. Again the Twitter feedback appeared to suggest that the paper was well received. And I certainly enjoyed the event. 

In terms of enjoyable events last week, I was also privileged to be part of the installation of our 6th Chancellor. The ceremony was held in the magnificent Peel Hall, and colleagues from across the University, our partner organisations and alumni were invited. Our new Chancellor is Jackie Kay, the renowned Scottish poet, whose work tackles a range of often taboo issues. The ceremony was full of music, laughter, dancing and beautiful words, some of the latter coming from the writer Jeanette Winterson and the irrepressible  Salford Mayor, Ian Stewart.

Jackie Kays appointment means our senior team is led by a great team of women. Our Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Chair of Council, and three of our Heads of School are all posts held by women. They are all strong women and such a combination is almost unheard of in the University sector. Jackie is joining a team of superb leaders and the future of our University feels like it’s in very safe hands. Perhaps in contrast to the University of Manchester, who are also in the process of appointing a Chancellor – favourite for the post is someone called Peter Mandleson – no comment. 

Up early today as today Jack and Harry’s get christened. Jack and Harry are 2 of what are 9 wonderful grandchildren! Of course this means we will be having a bit of a 'family do' with family and friends all coming to share in the celebrations. Jack and Harry go to Church every Sunday, and appear to really enjoy the children friendly services. Their christening service will be conducted by a female vicar, which given the events of last week, seems entirely appropriate.