Monday, 13 February 2012

In tribute to Ian Mallinson

It is now five years since Ian Mallinson passed away. I am very pleased that Janti asked me to say these few words at this Masterclass and annual Birmingham seminar where we in the SCA remember his contributions to social care. Now what to say about a unique man that some of you will have known better than me, some of you will have just heard his name and wondered, whilst others may not know of him at all.

 In these circumstances I did what many of you may do. I Googled him and in doing so I realised that this was something that Ian would have appreciated. In so doing I lighted upon the theme of what I want to say about Ian today. Although it is only five years since Ian’s death, with his illness, it is all of ten years plus since his last major publication on social care practice. For those of you that don’t know that was the 2000 Personal Care Planning in long term social care of older people - empowering service users - written with Susan McClean. As an aside, and I am getting diverted from my chosen theme here, this publication is still available from SCA and was and is ahead of what a lot of social care organisations are practicing even now.

In the preface it says “personal care planning is about workers jointly identifying needs with service users and then finding ways of meeting them. The personal support plan, defined by a named worker in conjunction with the service user, helps to provide a framework that gives a sense of clarity and focus to the activities of all involved”. I hope that says enough to give you a flavour of his work.

Now in the 10 years since that Mallinson/McClean publication Google has exploded alongside other technological advances and social media. In 2000 the information revolution and knowledge economy was just being ignited in the UK and it is only now just beginning to explode and change our world, including social care, forever. What would Ian have made of this? What would he have made of there being 5 professional Dr. Ian Mallinsons on LinkedIn, pages and pages of Ian Mallinsons on Facebook and many people with Twitter accounts who own up to being Ian Mallinson. Well I tell you what he would have loved it. You see Ian was an early adopter. Ian had a steam driven computer in the loft room where he lived and worked at Policy House in Bourneville - this was the place that most of the thinking and creation of Ian’s work for the SCA took place - before we even knew what a home computer was. He had CDs while the rest of us were still buying Vinyl and what an eclectic collection - jazz, choral, classical and rock/folk. There is no doubt in my mind that Ian would have a top of the range iPod, iPad and phone if he were around now. He would have switched to Mac no doubt about it and probably would have tackled the technical side of home computing as well.

I think Ian would be a driving force in social media and social care today. He would be promoting best practice through Twitter, running forums on LinkedIn and challenging leaders, managers and academics with a popular blog. The blogosphere was made for Ian’s knack for joining theory and practice and working alongside people on the ground to get the messages out far and wide. I think Ian would have invented a keyworker App by now that we would be debating the ethics of using and discussing how this can benefit service users and the risks be minimised. For those of you that don’t know keyworking was Ian’s middle name and as Janti said to me yesterday - you can’t get more person-centered than keyworking.


Yes Ian would have liked being googled, he would have liked that Social Care Online (SCIE) has 24 of his publications listed and that you can buy his books on Amazon. He might have even taken issue with the fact that apparently his most read book - Keyworking in Social Care - is now ranked 1,416,711 in books sold. He would have expected us all to do something about that. Ian believed in credit where credit is due, gave it and expected it in equal measure, and hated plagiarism and academic snobbery.

Those of you lucky enough to have been tutored by Ian at Bourneville College know that he would not have been fearful of social media. He would have been building it into learning and best practice, he would be using it to benefit his students and getting them to address how technology could improve quality of life for service users. He would be fighting to get a voice for people, for himself, in
the busy world of social relationships on the Internet - he would addressing the issues of communication up front. As a distinguished man he would have found a way to distinguish himself and those around him.

I have concentrated on one particular strain of thought that hopefully does justice to Ian’s memory. If you do Google Ian you can read all about his achievements in social care and other fields. In particular I would commend Joan Becks memorial piece to this event in 2007 published in SCAs magazine and available online or Natalie Valios’s item in Community Care 2000 when Ian was Association President.

However for me the inspiration in Ian was not about looking back, however valuable that maybe, but in forever looking forward and side ways as that was the type of man he was. I was lucky to have been his colleague, collaborator and conspirator for some 15 years and just thinking about what he would be doing today excites and inspires me still. He would probably be preparing an electronic wallchart of the forthcoming changes in legislation in social care - now there’s an idea worthy of Ian.

(I gave this address at the annual Ian Mallinson masterclass in September 2011)

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