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October 2021

Middle lane motorway drivers and petroleum panic

During a week’s walking in Derbyshire (which also included falling over and giving my ankle and knee a proper bang, but that is another blog), I enjoyed some much-needed downtime after the publication of the Safeguarding Review (SAR) for Joanna, Jon and Ben. On the return journey, I chose a different route home  – opting for some motorway driving down the M1 and A14.

Sitting in the inside lane, doing a nice steady 60mph, it was not long before I needed to overtake. Mirror, signal, double-check the ‘blind spot’’ manoeuvre, around the slower-moving lorry and smoothly back into the rear-side lane.

Watching further up the motorway, I could see the next manoeuvre coming up - into the outside lane to pass a vehicle just sitting in the middle lane.

Manoeuvre completed, I could see from my rear view mirror the ripple effect of the driver sitting in the middle lane. As other cars approached, one touched the brakes, slowed and overtook. The car behind them also braked and slowed a little. So this ‘wave’ passed down the carriageway. Soon we have a ‘phantom traffic jam’.

The Highway Code is very clear about lane discipline on motorways (see section 264) and driving at the correct speed. As I travelled through the countryside, I thought more about ripple effects.

A different ripple effect has been with us most recently, and with serious consequences. This has been the petroleum panic of the last few weeks. What started with a news story about fewer than a 100 petrol stations being a bit short of one or two fuel types has escalated. A government message saying there is plenty of fuel did not match what could be observed at the pumps - fuelled (sorry, no pun intended) by media reports showing long lines of cars at garages. So, more people ‘just topped up’ and this rippled through our communities. It had serious implications, with key social care, health, housing and emergency staff unable to get fuel for essential community visits.

By 26 September 2021, BP, which operates 1,200 stations in the United Kingdom, estimated that 30% of their sites did not have either of the main grades of fuel.  On 27 September, Reuters reported that 50 to 90% of fuel stations in some regions of England had run dry due to panic buying.

On Thursday 30 September the Guardian reported that nearly half of UK’s independent petrol stations still lacked fuel

Rather than be buffeted by these unwanted ripple effects, why don’t we encourage it for good impact, for adult safeguarding? We could start a safeguarding ripple in the name of Joanna, John and Ben. These three young adults had hopes and dreams like us all, and we did not protect them from harm. As Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland, said at the parliamentary adjournment debate:

… we need to acknowledge the scale of this scandal and its impact on real people, the most vulnerable in our society. We also need to acknowledge that we should all be ashamed.

Hansard, Cawston Park Hospital: Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board Review Volume 701: debated on Tuesday 21 September 2021

To which I would add … let’s leverage change through a ripple effect across our networks AND beyond. This would be a fitting legacy for Joanna, John and Ben.

Interestingly, in a recent tweet Helen Bevan highlighted the work of Robert Frank, the economics columnist. In his new book – Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work – Frank set out a notion that ideas and behaviours can spread from person to person like an infectious disease might spread – social contagion:

‘We’re creatures who are essentially ignorant about most things. What’s true, though, is that other people collectively know a great deal about a lot of things. So if you see other people acting with the appearance of confidence, that it’s what they ought to be doing, that’s a good reason for you to ask yourself whether you ought to be doing the same thing.’
From Putting Peer Pressure to Work: A Q&A with Robert Frank by Antonia Violante

Here are three easy-to-do actions to start our safeguarding social contagion / ripple effect. You can:

  • share the SAR report for Joanna, Jon and Ben with your colleagues. It makes 13 recommendations for system change. Some are national actions but some are for us in Norfolk. If using the full report is too much, you can read the executive summary.
  • If you are visiting a service which supports people with LD and/or autism, look out for how people’s days are organised. Are their days rich in meaningful occupation or are they bored, with little to do? Are they gaining weight? Is there over-use of sedative medication? How does the service engage with families and carers?

If this is not your area of practice, not to worry. Start a ripple effect by helping to promote these forthcoming FREE board webinars:

  • 03 November self-neglect. The session will be led by Olive Quinton of Lofty Heights, an organisation working in Suffolk that provides specialist decluttering, deep cleaning services. You can register for this webinar here
  • 24 November domestic abuse and older adults. I will be in conversation with Hannah Bows, in particular talking about ‘courtroom to Press Room’. Save the date! More information to follow.

Next time you see a middle lane driver, think of putting your own ripple effect to good effect for safeguarding.

Thank you.

Walter Lloyd-Smith
NSAB Board Manager
Email: walter.lloyd-smith@norfolk.gov.uk

Thursday 07 October 2021