On June 20th three students (Gill, Anna and Jane) and I embarked on something of an adventure! The trip had been planned as part of the leadership development initiatives I have been running over the past couple of years. My intention has been to bring leadership information and leadership development opportunities to the students to make leadership accessible and within every students grasp. For those students with leadership skills already developed and practised I hoped to widen their horizons within occupational therapy and to instil the idea that there should be no limit on their aspirations.
In arranging previous speakers I have been motivated by the impact that this has had and investigated the possibility of students visiting Westminster and COT headquarters in order to see where some of the decisions are made and hopefully identify a path for how they can become involved as individuals.
The visit was arranged for 20th and 21st of June which included an appointment with Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP, Julia Scott CEO of The College of Occupational Therapists (COT) and Genevieve Smyth, Professional Affairs Officer also at COT. The two days were non- stop moving from one appointment to another. Our first appointment was in the House of Commons with Andy Burnham. We enjoyed a 45 min chat over tea in the Pugin Rooms during which we asked a number of questions about leadership, how to engage in a ‘political’ world and it also offered the opportunity to raise particular issues relating to clients with whom the students have worked. This related to identifying a loop hole in the law in relation to equipment and adaptations and the difficulties of occupational deprivation for people with a refugee status. Our students used their time well and have identified ways to take these issues further.
On the 21st June we arrived early at Westminster and were able to observe part of the Health Select Committee meeting and then had a tour of the House of Commons and House of Lords from one of Andy Burnham’s staff. We were privileged alongside the normal tour areas to go across to Portcullis House and to see the parliamentary chapel and also the boiler room where suffragette Emily Davison hid during the 1911 census. It is fair to say that the whole experience was quite overwhelming due to the combination of the past history and living history all around you.
The last part of the day were meetings scheduled with Julia Scott and Genevieve Smyth. During an hour with Julia we discussed leadership styles, leadership opportunities and again the students used this time to gain Julia’s perspective on their areas of concern. Our time with Genevieve then added further depth to this information regarding how students can get involved in the decision making processes in COT and how to raise their leadership profile.
Fairly exhausted on our journey back we reflected on a unique couple of days which had given a clear insight into politics nationally and within our profession and how to use leadership skills effectively. Our thanks go to Andy Burnham and his staff, Julia Scott and Genevieve Smyth.