Transcript: ISBA 2016: ISBA values and themes - Don Williamson

Don Williamson, ISBA President and Chief Executive at Shared Care Scotland details how the conference came to be hosted in Scotland in 2016 and the value that previous conferences have contributed to the sector.

Podcast Episode: ISBA 2016: ISBA values and themes - Don Williamson

Category: Carers 

What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

DM - Donald Macleod
DN - Don Williamson

DM Well it’s my pleasure to introduce Don Williamson who is the President of the International Short Breaks Association. There must be something about 10. It’s the 10th ISBA and I noticed that Don has been the Shared Care of Scotland for 10 years and he’s done a fantastic job in spearheading the team and many, many hands have been involved in bringing all this together. Don is an outdoor enthusiast and I’m sure on this sultry September day he would be thinking, “Mm the hills are calling, I need to get out to the hills.” Maybe one day many of you who come here will enjoy the splendour of Scotland. Don has certainly ventured up many a hill, many a place in Scotland. So it’s with real pleasure that I welcome Don to this lectern.

DW Oh my goodness I can tell you the hills are calling so strongly right now at this very moment. Ha ha, let me just, let me just take this in for a moment because this is, this is something that seems to have been a very long time in the planning and then suddenly here we are a few years down the road. Before I say the sort of formal introduction I just want to, I thought you might be interested to know how do you actually become the President of the International Short Break Association. Am I giving too much away? Am I giving too much away?

So let’s go back two years to Wolfenbuttel in Germany where the last Conference had taken place, and I actually, Moira you were there with us and in fact I’m sure you would be witness to this but I came in and I collected my delegate bag as you’ve done this morning and then I grabbed a cup of coffee and I was just about to take my first sip of coffee and Sheila, where are you Sheila? There you are. Sheila sidles up and said, “So the Committee have been having a chat and we think it would be really good for Scotland to host the next ISBA Conference.” Now I didn’t really know Sheila that well. I wasn’t really that familiar with that many people on the International Committee. I had sort of deliberately kept a little bit of a low profile at previous events and before I knew it then we had this International Conference to organise and of course then they inform you, “Oh and that also means that you become the President of the International Short Break Association.” So there we are, that’s how I become the President of the International Short Break Association and it’s quite interesting walking back into the office after we’d been to Germany and there was a few of us from the team that were lucky enough to get out to Germany, and walking back into the office and, of course, all your colleagues are looking expectantly on thinking, “What goodies have you brought back from the airport duty free?” And you inform them, “Well actually what we’ve brought back is an International Conference to organise in two years time.” But to their complete credit none of them bolted and they, none of them resigned so that’s a positive sign.

Anyway, back to the script. It is fantastic to see everybody here today as Donald has said, that we have over the next two and a half days we will have 300 delegates from about 17 different countries with us. We’ve got people from Australia, from the States, from Canada. We’ve got Joe from India who I met, Joe where are you sitting? Hi Joe, great, fantastic you’ve managed to get here. We’ve got huge delegations from Denmark and from Iceland. Thank you very much for coming along, but wherever you come from we really do wish you a fantastic Conference and a wonderful stay in Edinburgh and as I said last night, those of you that were at the drinks reception, we turned the temperature up a little bit just to make you feel that little bit more comfortable. We’ll turn it down again tomorrow I think.

So this is the 10th International Conference. The first event took place back in 1995 in Thunder Bay in Canada. Was anybody at Thunder Bay in Canada in 1995? I know there’s at least a few people in the audience. Yes our Canadian committee members I think. Now on this occasion there were 13 countries represented and I’m pleased to say that Scotland was there too and it was possibly the very first global gathering of people who had this shared interest in the development of short breaks and respite care and that event was appropriately called Rendezvous for Respite and of course it set in train further events which take place every two years in different host countries under the banner of the International Short Break Association or ISBA for short.

Now I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended four events in the 10 years that I’ve been at Shared Care Scotland and I can honestly say I just value these opportunities so greatly. I think these Conferences give us, as Donald said, a rare opportunity to just sort of step back from the routine work and pressure that we’re under and just give us that time to see the bigger landscape in which we operate. Essentially these events are about bringing people, ideas and experiences together but I think it goes much further than this. I think these events over the years have really helped to promote that sense of community which Donald talked about, a sense that wherever we come from that we do share this common bond. A shared vision for supporting families to be able to lead the families that they want and I think this connection really does help make us stronger and it makes us feel even more determined to advance our work in our respective countries. Now I can’t prove any of this. There’s no kind of evidence to support this. It’s a hunch but I think you could be the judge of this after you’ve spent three days together and I can be very confident that you will experience that sense, that bond at the end of the Conference.

What I can say is that some really important significant pieces of work that we’ve managed to develop here in Scotland have been influenced strongly by the people that we’ve met at these events. We have a national online directory of short breaks which is modelled very much around the Arches Respite Locater in the States. I haven’t told anybody about this yet by the way so I apologise for pinching all your ideas but… and it was also sort of modelled around, I had a really interesting conversation, I think it was in Toronto, with Loig from Le Grath in France and talking about their short break booking system and that just sparked all kind of ideas as well. We have a Respitality Project now in Scotland which is growing at a very exciting pace and that came about from meeting people at the very first Conference I attended back in Denmark and I can also honestly say that many of the contributions that we make to new policy and legislation in Scotland is often related in some way to the lessons that we’ve learned from other countries and from the people that we’ve met at attending these events. So don’t be surprised if you go away at the end of this Conference stacked full of new ideas bursting to share them when you get back to your organisations.

Now there’s no doubt that we’ve faced many obstacles in our ongoing mission to improve respite provision and you’ll find over the next few days that we have very similar challenges. Demand for short breaks is growing. People’s expectations of our services is changing. The public money that we have depended on to help us to deliver our services is coming under increasing pressure and the models on which services are planned and commissioned are also changing. So perhaps more than ever we need these events to bring us together to recharge our batteries in the same way that we always talk about short breaks being an opportunity to recharge other peoples’ batteries so that we can go away with some fresh inspiration ready to take on some of these challenges. Our Conference theme for the next three days is Unlocking Potential and we selected this theme because we recognised that in the face of all these challenges and these changing expectations we do need to find new ways of sustaining and developing our provision. We also need to find new partners to work with who can help us deliver the choice and flexibility of provision that people want and there’s also untapped potential of the families too. What happens when they’re empowered to take more control? What creative solutions might they come up with? And what about us as practitioners as well? Are we equipped to succeed in this challenging and changing landscape? What do we need to learn, and perhaps more importantly what do we need to unlearn and how can we actually unlock our own creativity? So the next two and a half days we will explore these themes with the help of our 10 keynote speakers. We have over 60 contributors to 31 different workshops and as Donald said, it’s not just about what happens in the workshops. It’s about what happens in the breaks and over dinner. Please be generous with your knowledge, your experience and with your ideas. Be very curious about what’s happening in other countries and really try and make these two and a half days as worthwhile as you possibly can.

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