Change and lessons to be learnt

When this is over, and like all things this will end, what will our Government have learned, what lessons will they apply when we are “building back, stronger and better”.

I was honoured to be asked to deliver a speech at the Damilola Taylor Trust 18th anniversary memorial lecture. Meeting Richard Taylor OBE who had been campaigning for solutions to violence since the death of his son in November 2000 and hearing he had been inspired by how we had done things differently in Scotland was humbling but now hearing how the 20th anniversary legacy campaign is dedicated to bringing the entire youth sector in the UK together to celebrate the kind of young person Damilola was turning into and that the 18 Violence Reduction Units now evolving around the UK were contributing. Inspired myself!

Was very happy to offer a few words on what I now think needs to happen next!

Many Westminster Politicians have, in these difficult times, taken to quoting Winston Churchill, apparently in an effort to invoke the “Churchill spirit”. I’m not entirely sure what that spirit might be, but I think his quote “Never let a good crisis go to waste” has relevance.

Since March 2020 the daily spotlight on the Science of Public Health is highlighting the absolute necessity to elevate the goal of prevention above the misguided notion that cure is the only worthwhile goal. The emphasis on collective responsibility, partnerships, using good data and reliable evidence are the key factors in dealing with this crisis. At the same time acknowledging that individual culpability, guilt and blame are completely ineffective.

Identifying those most at risk and intervening to keep them safe also makes perfect sense.

The crisis has produced an observable increase in individuals and communities working together to help each other, neighbours visiting those in isolation, charities shifting course to provide immediate help to the most needy, influencers doing what they do like securing free school meals for children through the holidays.  

When this is over, and like all things this will end, what will our Government have learned, what lessons will they apply when we are “building back, stronger and better”.

A recurring “crisis” before this pandemic was violence so perhaps we might reflect on how our learning from this crisis might apply to that crisis.

Will we recognise the need for better understanding of the drivers that cause violence or will we stick with the redundant ideology of individual responsibility and blame, like we’ve always done.

Will we recognise those most at risk and provide some protective factors or will continue to ignore them just like we’ve always done.

Will we follow the evidence provided by the science that more prisons and longer sentences don’t work, that inequality is corrosive, that the lack of hope and disconnection felt by so many people is a significant cause of so many social problems, or will we ignore the evidence and follow the ideology just like we’ve always done.

Will we recognise the value of listening to those who have experienced inequality, poverty and lack of hope and seize the opportunity presented by their experience offers to make real change possible, or will we ignore their worth and the value of their experience just like we’ve always done.

Will we apply the proven Public Health model to tackling violence by applying the science, the knowledge and experience that exists or will we stick with an outdated ideology that doesn’t work, just like we’ve always done.

I leave you with another quote attributed to Winston Churchill, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. Maybe that’s the Churchill spirit.

John Carnochan OBE QPM FFPH LLD(Hons)

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