As a full-time working mum, I struggle with much free time to do anything for myself let alone others. That said, I found myself unable to say no when our local scout's group needed a new Group Secretary for the Executive Committee and as a family, we were approached to support a fishing charity focussed on getting young people into the sport. But why? Well, I believe it is my responsibility to set a good example to my children that no matter how busy you are it’s important to be “Good Citizens” and we all have a responsibility to play an active role in our communities, however small, for the benefit of everyone.
Which brings me onto Random Acts of Kindness Week, of course, I am an advocate of the event but more than that, I believe we should harness the power of Random Acts of Kindness to address how we as citizens can support those more vulnerable in our communities.
I have experienced the care system through my mum who sadly passed away in October 2018. She lived with a chronic illness for most of my life but continued to work until she was 55. My dad, on his retirement, stepped into the role of full-time carer until he died. As well as the usual grief of losing him, my sister and I were overwhelmed by the thought that mum and her deteriorating mobility would be left without care.
Stoically independent and determined to stay self-sufficient, mum rejected any suggestion that she might move closer to family or that she might need to consider residential care in the future. This was because we were in the fortunate position that community identity was strong and the network of practical support around her was vast. She rightly didn’t want to move and deemed herself at least 20 years too young to live anywhere other than in her own home.
For mum to achieve this meant engaging with challenges of navigating the social care system to get her not only an extensive care package in place but that one that worked together, for her. This entailed carers four times a day, home help three times a week, a gardener and a volunteer service who would take her shopping when she was unable to drive her adapted mobility vehicle. It was often suggested by social care than she accepts direct payment for her to manage her own care but her nervousness of a lack of ease to manage those more difficult instances of when a carer can’t make it or resigned at short notice meant that the comfort blanket of being council managed remained. As a woman whose intelligence and mental capacity hadn’t diminished, simply her physical mobility, she embraced technology to communicate with friends, do online shopping (the Amazon parcels continued to be delivered after her death!) and meticulously living and planning her life. Given her organisational capacity, it was a great disappointment that social care wasn’t able to offer tools with which, my mum, would have had the confidence to manage her own care.
My own experience of the care system has shown me how valuable local community connections are, the importance of strong communities and gratitude for great neighbours and friends who often carried out their own random acts of kindness - cutting the hedge, changing lightbulbs, dropping by with home-cooked food and providing companionship to prevent loneliness. I also credit my mum for instilling my moral compass to look at ways which we can help others to utilise their capabilities. She was involved with Talking Newspapers, a valuable service to those unable to read, right up until her own death.
This is why I’m passionate about creating a better future, creating a generation of young people who see the value of engaging and giving back to their communities. This is evident in the vision of the National Citizens Service and its social responsibility focus. So many people now live busy hectic lives and believe they don’t have the time or capacity to give back to others, but what if there was a better way to harness random acts of kindness to those in receipt of social care and to better connect people to make a difference no matter how small?
This fundamental question drew me to Younifi, a company focussed on striving to do better for people like mum; for individuals like me with caring responsibility miles away from home, work and my own young family; for carers tied up in a world driven by time and task paid by the visit, and for councils looking for better value and ways to empower people to manage themselves. Imagine a world where people could offer random acts of kindness - changing that lightbulb, fixing the leaky tap, helping unpack the shopping to those who need it and connecting the two to make it happen? Sounds like a lot to ask? Not really, know where to go to offer it? Probably not, yet something so simple is core to our society’s natural instincts. The problem is that communities connect differently today. This requires different solutions to modern-day circumstances, to support those age-old community principles. Younifi offers the infrastructure which gives people in receipt of care, such as mum, the tools to be able to manage their own support, to join up and call on their support network and stay connected with it. Younifi gives people the confidence to self-manage.
Right now at this moment consider what Random Act of Kindness you could do to support others, and how you could reach out and make a difference no matter how small. And to Directors and Commissioners of Social Care, consider how powerful and vibrant your communities could be with the right infrastructure to harness the power of random acts of kindness. Be kind to yourselves and build a social care system which better meets the needs of people and empowers those around you to have better lives. If nothing else, get in touch to arrange an introduction to Younifi to see the “art of the possible” and learn more about our vision to build a brighter future. After all, sharing is caring and at Younifi we like to talk.