Tag Archives: social networks

Can you help @Chill4usCarers?


 I have long been a supporter of the inspiring Wendy Maxwell (pictured) and Chill 4 Us Carers who provide a unique online community for carers which is run by carers all of whom contribute their time on a voluntary basis. The site has a 24-hour forum and chat room where members can post messages or reach out when they feel under pressure, there is an archive with games for members to play at all times of the day or night and issues can be discussed privately, without details being available to view online.

As Wendy says  “You can become a carer in an instant and when it happens to you, you can suddenly find yourself in a very difficult situation. You’ve got someone to look after who is ill, you need to find help and yet you’re stuck in your house. That’s when the internet can make all the difference.

“When you are a carer, it can be frightening and you can feel very alone – we are the only peer support group for carers in the UK and it’s vital that people have somewhere they can go to talk to other people: they may not have the chance to speak to anyone else at all, otherwise.”

Chill 4 Us Carers needs your help to survive because it is starved of funding. With hundreds of members across the country Wendy is passionate about bringing the outside world to those stuck inside four walls and has campaigned tirelessly to give computers to those who can’t afford them.

The innovative Computers for Carers scheme provides free laptops which are given to carers and offers a lifeline for those who need them most. Wendy is asking anyone who has a working laptop which they no longer need to donate it to the organisation so they can give it to a carer.

She is also hoping to raise the necessary £5,000 to turn Chill 4 Us into a registered charity which would make future fundraising and grant applications far simpler and is also looking towards a time when she could hand the reins to another member to run the sites. Charity status would mean the organisation could look to a future where a paid member of staff could run the site for a few hours every day, from home.

Read the full article here: Can you help to bring the outside world into the live of those unable to leave their home?

If you would like to make a donation, contact Wendy through the Chill 4 Us website or onTwitter or Facebook.

Introducing the Connected Care Network

In these challenging times we need a new vision which acknowledges the importance of bringing people together and using the power of digital technology to build and support more connected communities.

Care and support in the 21st century requires much more connected thinking across social services, health, housing, education and employment. Technology and social media can facilitate this process.

The Connected Care Network works across sectors exploring how innovation and new ways of thinking can be embedded and supported within communities.

There are hundreds of digital technology innovations being developed and supported by a range of funders. Paradoxically we are not using technology to make these innovations more accessible and available to an increasingly diverse market which includes individual citizens, commissioners and providers of community support.

Find out what happened at

 #kentdigicare a milestone for connected care?

Reflections on Connected Care Camp #psicare

#caregoesocial some thoughts on the journey

We need a mindshift away from a focus on technology as a means to an end and to think about how technology can help address the challenges .of our age which include social isolation, loneliness, supporting people living with dementia and their carers, developing the skill and talent of young people and creating communities we all want to live in.

We have developed a range of programmes in response to many discussions with clients about gaps in the market for connecting innovations and digital technology with the individuals, communities and organisations who would benefit from new ways of thinking and providing services.

We also provide Critical Friend Reviews to help organisations focus on their priorities for digital engagement.

These are exciting times. As Professor Stephen Hawking said, when accepting his AbilityNet ‘Excellence in Accessibility Award’ at the Technology4Good awards “Technology is a vital part of human existence. They show us that the right tools in the right hands can help everyone, regardless of our frailties, to achieve our true potential and advance as a civilisation.”

Find  out how we can help your organisation in creating new collaborations and partnerships.  If you would like to find out more I would be very happy to talk to you!

@shirleyayres on Twitter


Reflections on Connected Care Camp #psicare

First of all an introduction to the Connected Care Mindmap developed by @clarkmike. We have been identifying relevant resources over the past few months to share and give people a context for the problems identified through many online discussions and the Priorities for Care survey.

So much energy, thoughts and learning in one day and a lot of sharing resources through Twitter, videos & blog posts. A great post from @whatsthepont highlighting the benefits of collaboration  Open Data Age UK Cheshire, Fire & Rescue Service, Dementia Advisor. Odd one out?

For me many key problems centred around confusion about the role and responsibilities of the different care and health bodies. How does NHS England link with Healthwatch, the Care Quality Commission and the Health and Wellbeing Boards? What will be the impact of the £3.8 billion Better Care Fund and the Integration Pioneers?

Recommended viewing the excellent Alternative Guide to the NHS produced by the Kings Fund.

I would like to encourage @TheKingsFund to produce a similar Alternative Guide to Social Care I think many people would find this very helpful because the sector is so complex and fragmented!

There is a need for cultural change in health and care services which will enable innovations to be adopted and adapted more quickly. “We need to create the environment for difficult and challenging conversations” and with a huge funding gap looming this was seen as a priority. Despite the fact that social care is critical to support people mdischarged from hospital the sector is seen as the junior partner. This is not doubt influenced by the considerable discrepancy between health and care budgets and that health care is free at the point of delivery whilst social care is means tested. Changing the culture of organisations with the added pressures of public expectation about openness and transparency was seen as a major challenge. There are currently perverse incentives in the funding mechanisms and little encouragement to be brave and take risks in the redesign of services.

There was considerable discussion about how people can access information about existing resources both online and offline. There was a recognition that we need to tailor information channels to suit the different needs of individuals. An innovative proposal was the suggestion of developing guides to “the 5 things I need to know” across the wider care sector.

I was interested to learn that Health and Social Care West Midlands have created a site to to support health, social care and wellbeing leaders in the West Midlands to develop the more integrated services envisioned in the Health & Social Care Act 2012. Could this provide a template for more regional sites which provide access to relevant and timely resources? @hscwm

The importance of enabling people in residential care to access the internet and digital resources was recognised and there was some astonishment that we do not know how many care homes currently provide this for residents.

A consistent theme was the need to share both good practice and to learn lessons from what has not worked. there were many examples shared of how different organisations are supporting and connecting people to feel less isolated and more supported in their communities. It is worth reading the newly published Joseph Rowntree Trust Report on what makes a better life for older people.

Identifying transition points  and making sure that services are built around supporting individuals and their families was an important issue with many comments on the lack of basic information shared between the NHS and social care and poorly designed hospital discharge plans.

Many of the concerns about Integrated Care which were raised at Connected Care Camp are echoed in the recent @iMPOWERCONSULT report “A Question of Behaviours: Why delivering care integration and managing acute demand depends as much on changing behaviour as new systems and structures.”

One of the many sessions on the day discussed data driven social care which has been helpfully summarised by @resiflexUK in his post a round up of #psicare. An impressive summary thanks Conor!

Some big isssues:

On February 14th 2014 152 local authorities have to submit plans which should include how they are going to link health and social care data together by NHS number. The November TelecareLIN eNewsletter supplement on Integrated Care @clarkmike helpfully provides the  Better Care Fund requirements for joined up systems.

Who owns the data held on each of us and how can we free it?

How will local authorities deal with all of the self funders who will be eligible for an assessment under the new Care Bill?

There were very diverse levels of awareness about the potential of digital technology to help develop new ways of working and collaborations which are defined by outcomes rather than outputs. But a cautionary note from @MindingsStu an inspiring technology innovator and entrepreneur!

My call to action!



Communicating differently – the value of social media #kidsorg13

This week I am running a social media workshop for Camden Special Parents Forum part of KIDS London which provides a wide range of direct support services for disabled children, young people and their families. KIDS’ vision is a world in which all disabled children and young people realise their aspirations and their right to an inclusive community which supports them and their families. @SpfCamden 

It is always interesting developing a presentation for an unknown audience some of whom may be very confident using social media and others yet to be convinced that it has any value in their day to day lives. There is just so much to share and a post can only provide a snapshot of all the resources available.

“Young people don’t see the risk of social media but older people don’t see the power” @nickkeane speaking at the European Conference on Social Media and Policing Lisbon. It is important that we keep people safe online but not make it so scary that the opportunities for engaging, sharing and learning are lost.

Twitter has been described by  Om Malik  as “the pulse of our planet, one that gives the internet a sense of humanity”

Digital technology and social networks provide some of the most powerful tools available today for building a sense of belonging, support and sharing. Over 30 million people in the UK are now using social media, Twitter is used by over 230 million people every month and 24 milllion Britons use Facebook every day.

The impact of digital technology on how we communicate, access services and find information has radically transformed how we conduct our everyday lives and our relationships with others. We can learn so much from each other. A request on Twitter for thoughts about the value of social media for carers produced this lovely response:

You may not guess this but I’m a big fan of social media. The ability to connect with people across the world, the diverse articles posted that one may not otherwise see and instant access to breaking news before any other medium make Twitter an incredibly valuable resource. Importantly social media enables individuals and small organisations to have a much bigger voice and be involved in the many online discussions which are informing and shaping the development of care services.

I am just one person running a small digital engagement consultancy with a few trusted associates and this is my digital footprint! It is worth exploring Twitter tools such as @RebelMouse and @vizify to enhance your social media presence.

Twitter @shirleyayres

LinkedIn: uk.linkein.com/in/shirleyayres

Blog: Connecting Social Care and Social Media

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/disruptivesocialcare

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DisruptiveSocialCare

RebelMouse my social front page: https://www.rebelmouse.com/shirleyayres

VizifyTwitter video : https://www.vizify.com/shirley-ayres/twitter-video

But connection isn’t about platforms or tools. It’s about people.

On Twitter you can connect with Norman Lamb Minister of State for Care and Support @normanlamb , Jon Rouse Director General for Social Care @RouseJonDGDH,  Andrea Sutcliffe Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care @Crouchendtiger7 and the Chief Executives of most charities working in the field of disability.

Information is freely shared through social media. For example Netbuddy encourages the swapping practical tips and information on all aspects of supporting people with learning disabilities @netbuddytoptips

 Enabled by Design is a community of people who are passionate about well-designed, everyday products that challenge the one-size-fits-all approach to assistive equipment. Enabled by Design encourages people to share their views and experiences of assistive equipment, share wish lists about improving products and services, and post information, reviews and comments. @enabledby

One of the simplest needs for people is the ability to stay in touch with family and friends who may be widely dispersed. There are a range of online tools available to maintain and strengthen connections and address the practical tasks of co-ordinating the care  of an individual. Personal support networks provide a safe, moderated online space which can connect family, friends and professionals providing formal and informal care. Examples include:  Tyze, Yecco, Rally-Round and My People and Places

Getting started on Twitter

I hope workshop participants will be excited by the potential offered by social media and I am looking forward to welcoming more people to the wonderful world of social media!

The Twitter Help centre provides useful guidance and Mashable have produced the Twitter Guide Book.

Useful tips to guide you in developing your own personal social media policy have been produced by Paul Taylor @paulbromford.  Thanks for sharing Paul!

I will be taking note of the questions and issues raised at #kidsorg13 and will add further resources after the workshop.

Guest Post: Creating a strong support network for social workers

Zoe Betts

Zoe Betts

In 2012 I created a support event called Confidence and Competence specifically for social work students and newly qualified social workers (NQSWs). It has run for 2 consecutive years and is now an annual support conference held in London, set to go ahead again in April 2014. I’ve devoted many hours over this year so far to it and have already confirmed names and speakers. It’s very much a work in progress though and being that it’s not until April, this unofficially gave me some time to expand the concept by taking a bit of a gamble and diversifying the idea.

In 2009 I didn’t know one social worker. I started my masters and I didn’t have a social care background, which didn’t put me in good stead to build links. It’s part of the reason I created these events in the first place, because I learnt that I had a responsibility to strengthen my new professional career. Today, many of my good friends are social workers – and to credit them – the valuable and informal support I derive from them has meant my confidence and practice has strengthened as a result. By meeting people who really understand what this role entails, it’s easier to debrief – and above all – they just ‘get it’ in ways that my dear family and friends can’t, because most people still do not know what a social worker actually does.

I know social workers who have a wealth more experience than me. We meet regularly and unquestionably, they better my practice. We debrief, talk about practice, policy and about intricacies of cases and caseloads. I’m in awe of their legislative knowledge and personal management, which their years of experience have brought them and can now be shared with me. I am able to talk about things I find difficult, ways I can improve and we can identify, informally and together ways of developing and bettering all areas of practice; including time management, being assertive and  communication. It’s incredibly valuable and it’s also very enjoyable.

The idea to diversify the Confidence and Competence events evolved from one of these meet ups. Acknowledging the benefit a mutual debrief provides, not just for students and those in the early induction years of practice I thought this would be valuable for all qualified professionals. Each year my inbox was busy with emails from people 10 years+ qualified asking to come to the Confidence and Competence event. I’d had to explain that the benefit wouldn’t be there because the event is so tailored for students and NQSWs but I was beginning to realise support is needed, regardless of experience.

I put the wheels in motion to build the foundations of iamsocialwork: London: October 1st, 2013. Date agreed, venue secured – now why not aim big?! Let’s go inter-borough, every borough, but let’s go beyond that – lets go out to the counties. Let’s reach Kent and Herts….and Essex and the SW and SE and the voluntary sector and social workers who work outside of a statutory setting. Let’s be as inclusive as possible. I hope the event will grow beyond London because our support links are often weak and need improving regardless of location.

We know professional support is there. There can often be overwhelming amounts of support – that we do not know where to go to, but I feel there’s a special requirement and a void for us to link with each other. And having felt the benefit of this I will happily devote an evening to it. Every time I connect with social workers from other teams or depts. I leave feeling more confident about my practice, reassured and slightly less alone out there. That is a fact and my motivation for running this event. I know the value and now I want to spread that and inject a level of energy, inspiration and just something different to the day job.

I am under no illusion that it does not need to be big or successful to the outside community. The reality is that if myself and two others turn up – we will benefit from that time together and leave motivated, inspired and having had a great time (albeit awkwardly in a very large and beautiful room). The aim is not success of the event in whole, its success of the event based on the benefit gained per person – and my feedback form will tell me this.

So aside from owning iamsocialwork, I work full time in adult social care, which yes, is a complex role. In fact it’s extraordinary and it can exhaust me. The workload is heavy, the pressure is high and two years qualified I learn every day. But I laugh every day. I have a great team. I take hours to write an assessment and I sometimes wake up at 4am thinking of a resolution to a situation. I wake up at 4.38am going through my case load alphabetically (yes, really). But it’s a journey and a constant learning curve. I’m being so open because I want to highlight that I run these events because I’m very much on this journey with you. I’m not standing back having perfected this role watching you struggle; I feel every step of this struggle with you. I know most of you reading this are sighing in agreement with me, if we weren’t bound by confidentiality the remit of our workload would astound most people. But what we can do is to share experiences together to ease the strain and – more importantly celebrate the success we do achieve and remember why we do it.

I often meet my friends, who have great jobs in industries such as travel and fashion, they manage accounts and teams – their perks are holidays to far off exotic places and enormous discounts on very beautiful clothes (a ‘perk’ is not something we naturally associate with our role…) upon an often dishevelled, apologetic and late (*cough) arrival I submit a synopsis of reasoning to them with an overview account of my day in generic terms. They’re enthralled and shocked and intrigued. As a result I have become their baseline of reasoning when it comes to their bad days. Their jobs are far from pressure free, but as they learn a little of the tasks and complexities of the unknown world of social work – their rationale is shifting and they remind themselves that it’s “just jeans and t-shirts” or “just a missed connecting flight”. No one has died, or tried to. No one’s health is suffering beyond medical repair and no one is experiencing poverty in 2013, no one is at significant risk or in immediate danger. Switching off from the emotional tolls of social work is not so easy. I’m no saviour and lots of you know because you do it too. But we need to reflect on the practice and remember why we do it and importantly – protect ourselves along the way, which ever field you happen to be in. We need to step away and remember what we face on a daily basis can be  extraordinary, difficult and not the normal 9-5pm because it is human behaviour and that is never straight forward.

Please go into work tomorrow remembering that we are great as individual practitioners, but we’re a lot stronger connected together. I could write for hours and cover every aspect of my thought process on social work and the ways we work  but it’d be much more fun for you to come and hang out on October 1st. I’ll give you 30,000% of my time and we’ll talk till you drag yourself away. I know that together, in serious numbers, we are stronger.

Book now for the iamsocialwork inter-borough networking evening

London 1st October 18.00 – 21.30 


Contact me iamsocialwork@hotmail.co.uk

Connect with me on Twitter @iamsocialwork

Got a question about care resources? Ask Twitter!

twitterI am always interested to track the growing influence of social media in providing information from trusted sources. As the numbers of people using Twitter continue to grow there is now an impressive range of knowledge  available online and people are very willing  to share information and experiences . Whilst it is easy to run a google search on any topic it would appear that people are using Twitter as a further filter to gain recommendations about care resources. This certainly has implications for funders, practitioners, care providers and commissioners of care services.

Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and retweeted my request for recommendations. 

Introducing the Care in the Digital Age programme

ImageThe Care in the Digital Age programme is designed to help your organization deliver more focused, cost effective services by showcasing digital technologies that offer new ways of supporting service users and carers.

The event presents digital technology solutions across a wide range from personal networks through to ‘keeping in touch’ systems and meal sharing initiatives. The emphasis is on technologies that promote independence, diminish social isolation and address the issue of digital exclusion amongst disadvantaged groups. It draws on our experience of the availability, impact and of web and app based systems in the sector (as detailed in our click guide to digital technology in adult social care and in the Provocation Paper Can online innovations enhance social care? published by the Nominet Trust).

The programme consists of a one day event aimed at people involved in health, social services, housing, education, economic regeneration and the police, and encourages participation from carers, service users and their representatives. As a follow-up, we can work with community builders and connectors to explore how these innovations can be embedded and supported through the development of local hubs.

Kent  Care in the Digital Age  takes place on Friday 12th July. The event is fully booked but you can follow the discussion on Twitter using the hastag #kentdigicare

We may be coming to your locality because we are now in discussion with a number of other local authorities, Health and Wellbeing Boards, housing associations and community groups to deliver the Care in the Digital Age programme across the UK.

If you would like to find out more I would be very happy to talk to you!

The heartbeat of the new world economy is social and mobile @equalman

Mobile technology and social networks provide some of the most powerful tools available today for building a sense of belonging, support and sharing.  Social media has become the number one activity on the web. How many care organisations  have an effective online communications and engagement strategy?

@Media_Trust Top tip #GoMobileconf: 80 per cent of Twitter users access it via their smart phone.

 A powerful and very popular video from Erik Qualman author of Socialnomics which provides statistics about the global influence of social media. “it is not a question now about whether you should be involved in social media but how well you do it”

If your organisation would like help in developing an online communication and digital engagement strategy which promotes innovative thinking do get in contact! @shirleyayres 

Stats from the Social Media World

Three perspectives on the use of social media in 2011. Whilst there are variations in the statistics especially for UK Twitter users (maybe due to research methodology?) the numbers of people now using social media are impressive and growing rapidly.

Social Media in 2011 @videoinfographs


The State of Social Media In The UK (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) @Mindjumpers

Facebook now has a reach of just over 30 million unique users for the UK. That means the proportion of the UK total population registered with the site is fast approaching 50%. 25-34 year olds are now the largest age group on Facebook.

Twitter has shown explosive growth this year, with the number of reported users more than doubling from 12 million to 26 million.

LinkedIn also continues to grow, and now looks to reach around 10% of the UK population

Google+ made its debut to great excitement in 2011, According to socialtimes, the UK total user base is still under one million – and globally, only 17% of those signing up become regular, active users.


Social Media Usage in the UK – The findings @Umpf

37.4 million UK adults use Facebook regularly
32.1 million UK adults use YouTube regularly
15.5 million UK adults on Twitter
7.9 million UK adults on LinkedIn
6.7 million UK adults on Flickr