My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”Stephen Hawking
Anyone who has waited to hear the results of a test or investigation will know how worrying that can be. The sick feeling in the pit of the stomach, the dry mouth and the pounding heart as you anticipate bad news. You read all sorts of interpretations into everything that happens in the run up to hearing what the doctor has to say. It must be bad news because the doctor walked down the corridor to fetch me instead of calling me from the clinic door. They look stressed – what does that mean? In reality, they may have walked down the corridor because they have been sitting for too long and look stressed because of problems at home.
I know that for many people this Review is one more anxiety-provoking intervention in a roller coaster of events and debates. It matters to people with widely divergent views, and the anticipation is huge. It goes without saying that I feel that responsibility very keenly and that only increases my determination to get it right.
I knew from the outset that any number of minor actions or comments may be analysed for clues as to what I might be thinking – particularly in the period before we had a website and a reliable means of interacting with stakeholders.
So, perhaps the most important thing to say about my opinion on the many complex issues the Review will need to consider is that at this point in time it is my job not to have one. When I was first asked to get involved in this work as an independent chair, I considered the request very carefully and only accepted because I did not have predetermined views about what the recommendations and outcomes should be. I knew that if I had a view of my own it would have stopped me from having an open mind and listening to the people with experience and knowledge. I do know a lot more now than I did a few months ago, but I am still in the foothills of hearing and understanding.
Furthermore, if you read the Approach section on the website, you will see that this is not just about my views. The aim is to have a formal consensus development process so that those with relevant experience can contribute to decisions in a transparent fashion, based on evidence and debate.
I am determined to follow a robust and inclusive process, so I have established an Assurance Group to bring some external challenge. I have asked the Group to hold me to account on the conduct of the Review – ensuring that the Review process is fully participative, that it respects and hears from young people and young adults with lived experience, as well as a range of professionals and others, and that it is evidence based. Members are not affiliated with any group or party with a specific interest in the subject matter. The Group has no role in determining the Review’s outcome or recommendations, it is there to make sure that the people who influence the Review are those with relevant experience, expertise or research contributions. We have made some changes to our website to clarify this.
I am keen to hear from those with lived experience, including adults, as well as children and young people, their families and carers, and the range of professionals supporting them – their involvement will be critical to achieving the right service model and in developing the Review’s recommendations. I would urge those wishing to participate to subscribe to our mailing list to stay up to date with how the Review is progressing and opportunities to contribute.
I know that some of you may be taking the Stephen Hawking position of having low expectations of the Review because it might otherwise be painful to be disappointed. I would ask those of you who feel like this to have confidence that the Review will be carried out in good faith, and with children and young people at the centre of all considerations.
This review is about improving and developing services, such that every child who seeks help can have the best possible outcome for them as an individual. If everyone is able to see that as the shared purpose, I hope we will be able to find a way forward.