June 2020 saw the launch of the Resilience Task Force campaign, with national media coverage across print, broadcast and a significant response on social media. The impact we saw was a long way from the time I spent ruminating in the garden between meetings during lockdown 1.0, feeling frustrated and concerned that the Government was not doing enough to plan for and protect people’s psychological and social wellbeing.
While the idea of the RTF (which it become affectionately known as) started in my garden, it quickly becomes so much more. With the support of many influential organisations and many more passionate individuals, we were able to get our voice, and the voice of those affected by the issues heard.
From the start, the encouragement and advice from my co-campaigner Sir Norman Lamb have been incredible. The support he has given me and the campaign has truly helped to ensure our efforts steered the right path and also enabled meaningful conversations with a broad range of supporters and those in Government.
With Sir Norman’s help, we brought together 80+ signatories for our letter to Government; calling on them to convene a Resilience Task Force to co-produce a cross-sector national response plan to address the social and psychological impacts of the pandemic (you can read more on that on the RTF website).
The launch also saw a media campaign with coverage in The Times and a BBC news interview with myself and Sir Norman. This was a fantastic experience and enabled us to raise the issues on a national platform. We were also joined by Tamara White, domestic abuse services area manager at the charity Hestia.
Our supporters have been so important in this process, writing to Ministers and MPs, as both interested parties and constituents. As a result of these efforts, we are aware of at least six responses, but I believe there were many more contacts made. All of the responses we were sent are available to read on the Resilience Task Force website. [https://www.resiliencetaskforce.co.uk/]
These replies all acknowledged the validity of our concerns and the importance of supporting the emotional and social wellbeing of our communities. We are therefore clear that we have conveyed a powerful and compelling call to action to the Government, and that the concerns and suggestions from our campaign and supporters have been acknowledged.
Sir Norman and I also had a positive meeting with Graham Archer, a Senior Advisor to Vicky Ford, the Children’s Minister. We discussed a range of issues at length with Graham and we have agreed to meet again to explore our thinking further.
While we are deeply disappointed that the Government will not be convening a Resilience Task Force, I am able to draw hope and optimism from this experience. Seeing so many like-minded people and organisations come together – in such a short time – to support a common cause and promote ideas for improving the situation, was truly humbling.
So much good practice has been shared and many discussions about the issues we were championing have been taking place on seminars, workshops and at conferences. This confirms the strength of feeling about these issues and while the RTF campaign has reached its natural conclusion, we are in no doubt that the conversations and efforts to create change will absolutely continue.
With more and more people seeking help for mental health problems, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol problems and poverty starting to bite hard for many families; the concerns we raised in June 2020 have, if anything, become more severe. The need to acknowledge and address the social and psychological fall-out from this difficult chapter in our nation’s history is just as crucial as it was when we first launched our campaign.
I am greatly encouraged by the innovation and collaboration we are seeing up and down the country and fully expect that local solutions will continue to make a positive difference to the lives of those most affected by the impact of COVID-19 and the widening of inequalities that this pandemic has precipitated.
The outcome hasn’t been what I’d originally hoped, but I gained a lot along the way, both personally and professionally. It is a great reminder that some of the most rewarding sources of personal and professional growth emerge from feelings of frustration, not knowing where to start, not being sure you are the right person to be doing it, feeling out of your comfort zone and reaching out to others who might be able to help.
I would like to extend a huge and sincere thanks to all the signatories, supporters, people who took time to write to their MPs, Forepoint Marketing and Matthew Simpson, who brought the campaign to life with branding and a web presence, Miranda Levy who wrote the Times piece, Amy Martinez who gave us PR support and of course Sir Norman.
Please continue connecting with me on Twitter; let’s keep on sharing ideas, good practice and updates. The reasons why we launched the Resilience Task Force campaign are still so relevant, and I hope that we will all continue to talk about and champion these ideas within our own spheres of influence.