I have a guilty secret.
Before I tell you, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Sara and I am the new Public Affairs Officer for the College of Occupational Therapists. I’ll be working to raise the profile of occupational therapy within Westminster and will be working with the policy officers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make sure OTs have a voice across the whole of the UK.
So here is my guilty secret. I love policy. I know it isn’t particularly “cool” to admit, but it’s true. Since starting in this post just over a month ago, I’ve been to numerous events and have talked to lots of people and have been struck by the lack of involvement of OTs in shaping the system that you work in. I wondered if it’s because OTs don’t love policy, or politics, like I do? But then I thought, perhaps they are interested in it; they just don’t know how to engage in it and make a difference?
My mission is to get to a point where government, civil servants, and other stakeholders are routinely consulting OTs before they make any decisions relating to health and social care. “What does the OT think?”—that’s what any decision-making body should be saying; whilst across the UK, seeing an OT should be as natural as visiting a GP or a nurse. Achieving this vision will require the OT community to become much better at influencing at all levels of government to shape the decisions that affect how, when and where we work.
If I asked you, “Are you an influencer?”, would you answer “yes”? If not, you’re not alone. I think a lot of OTs wouldn’t consider themselves particularly involved with, or responsible for, what happens at Westminster, or in the devolved assemblies. Or perhaps it’s that you don’t feel able to make your voice heard? The truth is that raising the profile of the OT profession is every OT’s responsibility. The COT is a small collection of employees; it’s the people we represent who have the power. We need to let decision-makes know about the great work we do, and about how we can provide unique and invaluable insights into the future of health and social care.
So what can you do?
The answer is lots! But to begin with, my question to you is how can we—the College of Occupational Therapists—get more OTs actively engaged in shaping the political landscape in which you work?
I’m keen to hear your ideas, or examples of when you successfully engaged with a government representative or key decision-maker. Please leave your comments below, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you and to working with you to achieve this vision.