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CAROL GRANT - SNIFFING OUT THE GOOD NEWS

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I watched an amazing film recently. It had pathos. It had drama. It had tragedy. It had big laughs. I was gripped f...
I watched an amazing film recently. It had pathos. It had drama. It had tragedy. It had big laughs. I was gripped from start to finish. It didn't win a Bafta and you can't hire it from your local video shop. But if you're lucky you can get your own copy for free. Because this compelling story comes from local government and it's all about social care services.

The film is called 'Because of you' and was made by Worcestershire CC. It's as far removed from your standard corporate video as you can imagine. Made by Chris Smart, who achieved national coverage for his drugs education film 'Rachel's story', it does what all good filmmaking should do - it touches the emotions.

Ben, a young man with learning disabilities, is pictured chopping vegetables in his part-time job at a local hotel with the confidence of Gordon Ramsay. David, whose mantelpiece photograph reveals a young naval officer with dashing good looks, is now living with the devastating impact of Parkinson's disease. He says of his home carers: 'If they stopped coming, it would an absolute bloody disaster.' Winston,

a former fast bowler for the West Indies and still the record holder for the most wickets taken in a one-day international, describes in matter-of-fact style the tragic accident that left him severely disabled and talks about the direct payments that have allowed him to get back control of his life.

The film took a year to make, involving staff and service users along the way. It's been shown to hundreds of social care staff.

Social care is an area rife with bad news. Think about the cases you've heard in the past few weeks. Gloucestershire CC pilloried for splitting up a vulnerable elderly couple. The Commission for Social Care Inspection reporting that half of all care homes give people the wrong medication.

It's easy to be mesmerised by the bad news stories, but there is a demand for good news too. I heard a presentation recently by Neil Benson, editorial director of the Trinity Mirror regional newspaper group, who had just completed a survey of around 36,000 people to find out what people want from their local media.

His research found that, while a major negative news story will always sell papers, a constant diet of bad news is a turn off for readers - it makes them feel bad about the area where they live. Editors are now actively seeking to reposition their paper from being a 'remote informer' to being a 'helpful friend' and that includes actively looking for more good news. And what do they want most? A strong 'it could happen to me' human interest story.

One PR person in the audience was cynical about this new enthusiasm for good news. She cited as evidence the fact that the local paper had failed to cover her council's improving comprehensive performance assessment - thus missing the point in spectacular fashion, I felt.

I commend Worcestershire's approach, and I don't underestimate its achievement. It's an excellent council and it took a lot of hard work and commitment to produce this amazing film, which is now being used as part of the Department of Health's development programme.

But every council has the stories and the characters to cast a film like this and to feed the media a constant diet of human interest stories. All it takes is the empathy to identify them, the tenacity to seek them out and the imagination to see how they might resonate with the public. The alternative is to let the bad news come to us.

Copies of 'Because of you' are available, free of charge, from Vicki Marshall, adult and community services, County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester, WR5 2NP.

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