Author: Simon Goldsmith
Reviewed by: Simon Duffy
This small book by Simon Goldsmith is full of wisdom and practical experience. It provides an excellent introduction to the challenges and opportunities of providing good community support to older people or people with disabilities. It is engaging and packed full of stories and useful insights. It would be a very useful part of an induction pack for people who were beginning to work in community services, either as social workers or support workers.
One of the strengths of the book is its use of metaphor, and one of its guiding metaphors is ecological: we are beings whose life and growth depends on the nutrients we can only receive through love and friendship. Goldsmith works out from this central observation to explore many of the different strategies that can be used to help people strengthen family life, build new relationships, fight loneliness and overcome trauma.
The book, also follows the trajectory of Goldsmith’s own career. He takes us from the days of the institution and through the different stages in the development of the community living. He does not describe any of the ‘technological’ developments in any detail - supported employment, gentle teaching, supported living, direct payments, person-centred planning etc. - he is more interested in the human side of things. He is interested in how we can open up ourselves to seeing potential, being free to take risks and helping others to come on this journey with us. The book speaks to the day-to-day reality of being a professional - with a human heart.
The book is also informed by a critical perspective that questions why professional services sometimes seem to damage people and to obstruct the development of community life. Goldsmith suggests that services and community are like oil and water - easily separated and difficult to mix together without some ‘emulsifying agent.’ It struck me that this is a very useful metaphor and it can be expanded in a number of ways: Community is like water, absolutely essential to life. Professional services, like oil, can be good and add value, but some oils (like olive oil) are much better than others. Services also - like oil - tend to dominate. However I do not think we have - as a society - really identified the features of health-giving professional services. Positive developments, like the Peckham Experiment, which Goldsmith cites, which took the value of community seriously, have become historical footnotes, rather than vibrant models for others to follow.
The book is not political, although there are some references to recent policy developments, but there is a wider discussion of policy at the end of the book. Goldsmith rightly criticises the current pretence that markets and regulation can help us move forward. These strategies simply reinforce existing bad practice - they do not open the door to positive change. Instead he seems to share the perspective of the Centre for Welfare Reform and of Citizen Network - we need a radical shift in power and perspective if we are to enable communities to become the nourishing places we all need if we are to truly thrive as human beings.
Life Nourishment is available to buy in paperback and for your kindle via Amazon here.
The publisher is Simon Goldsmith.
Life Nourishment © Simon Goldsmith 2018.
Review: Life Nourishment © Simon Duffy 2019.
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