Ele Buckley, the Giving Voice Campaign Manager, gives us an update of some of its activities so far.
The release of The King’s Speech in 2011 was a golden opportunity to change the public’s perception of stammering and other communication difficulties. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) used it as a platform to launch the Giving Voice campaign, which has been going strong ever since.
Giving Voice aims to raise the profile of speech and language therapy, highlighting its cost-saving and life-transforming role in health, education and the criminal justice sector. My task has been to inspire Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) to get involved. I’ve encouraged them to do three things: 1. Share patients’ stories in the local media; 2. Hold awareness-raising events; and 3. Meet local decision-makers (MPs, councillors, etc.) to make the case for protecting and growing services.
RCSLT launched Giving Voice because reforms in the NHS and austerity measures were set to make conditions challenging for speech and language therapy. Three and a half years into the campaign and we are in the thick of it, with many services stretched to the limit and SLTs struggling to protect patients from the impact of cuts. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Awareness of the profession has never been higher, and anecdotal evidence suggests that several campaigning services have staved off cuts because SLTs have built support for their work locally.
When I first invited SLTs to campaign, many felt they hadn’t the time or energy to become a salesperson, marketing guru and lobbyist on top of their day job. But many have surprised themselves, developing local campaigns that put their creativity and communication skills to great use. From family fun days to flash mobs (when groups of people assemble in public places, perform an act, in this case holding up placards, and then disperse) in town centres, SLTs have left their comfort zones to speak up for service users.
Campaigners in Birmingham recently proved how local action can snowball into a national publicity opportunity. After filming a flash mob in Birmingham city centre (watch the video at https://youtu.be/8d3vrkKk5m4 ), they tweeted it to celebrities and NHS leaders, resulting in an invitation to repeat the performance at the NHS Values Summit, an opportunity to bring Giving Voice to key decision-makers including Professor Steve Field, Deputy National Medical Director, NHS England, and Bill McCarthy, Director of Policy.
Unsurprisingly, SLT students have been some of the most enthusiastic campaigners. Their efforts have kept campaigning fun, with a Call Me Maybe imitation video (below) posted on YouTube by Queen Margaret University students. Also, the craze for filming Harlem Shake videos led to four rival groups achieving several thousand views between them. These don’t directly save services but they make new audiences aware of Giving Voice.
68.3% of RCSLT members say their service has experienced cuts that are affecting service users. You can take part in the Giving Voice campaign whether or not your local therapists are involved - it can be hard for professionals to challenge decisions that are being made about the service they work for. However, you are free to speak out about the experience you have had as a patient. By taking part in the campaign you can help protect and grow speech and language therapy for the future.
To help, you could write to your MP explaining how therapy helped transform your life, and how you are worried about service cuts. If you are being affected by a cut or change to a local service, bring this to the attention of your local press and politicians. Visit www.givingvoiceuk.org/resources/ to read a full briefing and let us know if you take action as part of the campaign. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 0207 378 3003.
Thank you for helping to Give Voice for all those who depend upon speech and language therapy services now and in the future!
“Myself and fellow SLT students at Queen Margaret University made a video to promote the message that ‘Communication Matters’. It was an alternative music video for the popular song Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson; we felt we could reach people using this fun medium. We hoped to engage and encourage others into the Giving Voice campaign by highlighting the many forms of communication that people use within their everyday lives and included as many as possible in our video. We had great fun making it and are delighted that it has had so many views around the world - nearly 12,000 already!”
Caitlin McCron. Watch their video at https://youtu.be/QMvvkEwdX_Y
From Speaking Out, Summer 2013, p.9