A public event in Chipping Campden on September 10th was my first opportunity to see Gloucestershire LINk in action, although I had looked around its website before attending the meeting. Barbara Marshall, who chairs the LINk’s Stewardship Board, gave a presentation introducing the LINk and explaining what it does.
The overall picture of how the LINk works was presented to the meeting as a diagram. Unfortunately, the diagram looked very complicated and difficult to understand.
The rest of the presentation seemed to be full of lists. I thought it would have been good to have had examples of success stories or achievements made clear in the slides, but apparently the LINk has not been going long enough to have had any feedback on its work.
It was not made clear to the audience what difficulties and challenges the LINk faces. I thought this would be an important part of a public meeting, because it would have encouraged members of the public to come up with ideas about how they might get involved.
A remark was made at one point that few members of the public were present. If I had not been a member of the LINk already, I do not think I would have known about the meeting. It was not clear how the meeting had been publicised, or how members of the public could help with publicity for future meetings.
A lady at the front of the audience said she wanted clearer feedback on issues that she had raised with the LINk, even if the feedback were to be negative. A slide in the presentation entitled, “What happens to your views?”, had a Feedback box at the end of the process, but this lady would have liked feedback earlier so she could understand what is happening instead of having to wait for the process to be completed. I thought this was a good point.
Impressions of the website
An interesting story was told at the meeting about someone with learning difficulties who went to hospital but no one spoke to him there. I thought the same was true of visitors to the forum on the LINk website. At the time I looked, five questions were there, with hundreds of views but no replies.
I thought it would be surprising if anyone ever again posts a topic there, when the forum appears to be quite dead. It would surely be better if each topic had an immediate reply, even just an acknowledgement. And it would be better still if active LINk members could be encouraged to contribute news and opinions informally in the forum.
Because I have a strong interest in mental health issues, it was good to see self harm and suicide prevention among the LINk’s priorities for 2010-11. I was disappointed, though, that there seemed to be little opportunity for a newcomer to the LINk like myself to contribute. A forthcoming task group meeting was mentioned in passing at the public meeting, but I saw no sign of it on the website or in my e-mail.
While the website invites people to join the LINk, it does not say clearly what to join for. The priorities for the year are not obvious. The Vacancies page is empty. The slide in the presentation to the public meeting, “It’s up to you how and when you get involved”, is vague. The LINk groups that the slide mentions do not seem to be listed anywhere. This is all confusing to a newcomer.
Another function of the website might be to collect people’s views on services, but that seems to be discouraged. The “Have Your Say” box there only asks for views about the LINk itself, and the “Register” box seems to imply that only members can have any influence.
Together, the website and the public meeting gave me some confidence that the LINk is an active organization, but details of its activities seemed elusive. The activity that I thought would be central — getting feedback on health and social care services — was conducted in a seemingly haphazard way at the meeting, and not at all on the website. Clearly, I have a lot to learn about how the LINk operates.