100 years of PSS in one book

It’s sometimes difficult looking back to life before 2020 and strange to remember how our lives were so different. 2019 was a particularly significant year for PSS. 1 January 2019 marked the start of our centenary year – 100 years to the day since our founder Eleanor Rathbone opened the doors to Liverpool Personal Services Society, as we were known then – ‘a society for any citizen in need’.

Thanks to some funding we received from our friends at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, our centenary year presented us with the opportunity to put our heritage on the pedestal it deserved.

At the top of the year, we asked you to email, phone and write in with your stories about how PSS has touched your life – and you didn’t let us down. As the months went by, we collected a fantastic selection of stories that perfectly sum up how PSS has made its mark. Over the course of 2019, we found some creative and interesting ways to celebrate and share the most poignant stories of PSS past; the ones that represent the journey that not only we’ve been on as an organisation but also the very personal journeys of the most important people to us: the people that we’ve supported.

And after months in the making, giving these stories the full justice they deserved, we’re very proud to present to you: ‘What Ought to be Done’, a collection of real stories celebrating PSS, titled from Eleanor Rathbone’s famous quote ending, ‘should be done’. The book is full of stories to make you laugh, to make you cry and to inspire. So, during these trying times, why not put your feet up and have a read. It may be just the ticket to brightening up your day, a stark reminder of the struggles our society and people have faced across 100 years and how resilience, determination and big-heartedness can really push us through.

You can download it here. 

And, please let us know what you thought of the book. 

The glossy hardback versions of the book are also ready and waiting at our head office for you to skim through as soon as our doors reopen. We can’t wait to share them.

Here’s a taster of some of the most poignant tales from the book:

Setting the scene…

Back in 1919, Britain, and Liverpool in particular, was in the grips of post-war devastation. Thousands of young men had lost their lives fighting for their country and people all over were left living in widespread poverty: their lives, homes and families all torn apart by war. Liverpool had been right in the thick of the wartime efforts, thanks to our global port and prime location as an operations base. But playing such a central role also meant that people in our lovely city were some of the worst hit in the country.

In the midst of all this chaos, there was no guaranteed safety net for people in need – no Welfare State to fall back on. No NHS. No guarantees. This is where brilliant philanthropic families, like the Holts, the Mellys, the Booths, and, central to our story, the Rathbones, really became the saviours of so many.

Read: ‘What Ought to be Done’, to find out more: https://bit.ly/PSSCentenarybook

And, please let us know what you thought of our book, which we thank our friends at National Lottery Heritage Fund for making possible: bit.ly/PSSCentSurvey

Liver bird Lucy

Did you know that PSS was actually one of the first organisations to offer birth control advice to women? Lucy* sought this support from PSS back in 1936. This was during a time when there was great stigma around birth control but, based on her mental health challenges and family circumstances, Lucy felt like this was the best option.

PSS has always been passionate about making sure people always have a choice. Sometimes, that has meant respectfully opposing strong-held beliefs, acting without judgement to provide an alternative way for people who don’t necessarily hold the widely accepted views of the time to heart, or who have gone another way with their lives. Lucy’s story, which unfolded in 1930s Liverpool, perfectly encapsulates this.

Flick to page 121 of our new centenary book, ‘What Ought to be Done’, to read Lucy’s story amongst so many more from our past 100 years: https://psspeople.com/…/uplo…/2020/05/PSS-Book-final-web.pdf

And, please let us know what you thought of our book, which we thank our friends at National Lottery Heritage Fund for making possible:www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PSSCentenaryBook

Treasurer Toosey and the bridge on the river Kwai

Did you know that a novel and Oscar-winning movie was actually based on the life and times of our former treasurer, Phillip Toosey?

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund we’ve been able to bring the tale of Phillip and his experiences of a Japanese prison camp in Burma back to life. We’ve spawned some amazing stories and seen some amazing people shape us across 101 years and we’re so excited to share these with you in our book, ‘What Ought to be Done.’

You can download the book, featuring this surprising story and many more here: https://psspeople.com/…/uplo…/2020/05/PSS-Book-final-web.pdf

And, please let us know what you thought of the book:www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PSSCentenaryBook

A friend until the end 

In 1976, Gill Gargan was seconded to PSS to pilot a youth counselling service, Young Person’s Advisory, for a year. Lucky for us, we managed to keep Gill around for just a little while longer – in fact, she’s still working for PSS today. We interviewed Gill for our centenary book and she told us about three services she worked for at PSS that are very close to her heart.

A PSS experience that really stands out to Gill was working for a palliative care service. As a teenager, Gill’s own mother had passed away and this gave her a real affinity to people at the end of their lives. She was determined that their last wishes be met and that they got all the dignity and respect they deserved. Gill tells the poignant story of a man named Alan who she supported. He was understandably feeling a mixture of emotions but had a very clear idea of what he wanted to happen when he died. He didn’t want to make expensive funeral arrangements, he wanted to make his own arrangements and have his body donated for science. At a time when this was very out of the ordinary, Gill did everything she could to make it happen.

She said, ‘a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to figure out how they want to spend their last days – they aren’t given the chance to plan – but being able to support someone to achieve the death that they want was fabulous’.

And our #NeverMoreNeeded staff continue to support people at every stage of their life.

Read Gill’s touching story in our centenary book from page 87: https://bit.ly/PSSCentenarybook

And, please let us know what you thought of our book, which we thank our friends at National Lottery Heritage Fund for making possible: bit.ly/PSSCentSurvey

Doug the dog

Our Supported Living service is there to support people in their communities. It gives people who need it a home they can call their own – and some stability in life. But it’s not just about putting a roof over someone’s head; it’s about giving people control over their own lives. Our teams empower people to see a real purpose in life, by really doing things at their pace and treating them as human beings. It’s as simple as that. And they certainly don’t want big praise for this, especially not Natalie, who’s been quietly saving people’s lives for the past fourteen years. Natalie’s about as far from serious as you could imagine, constantly cracking jokes – most often with herself being the brunt of these – and she scoffed at the idea that her story would be included in a book all about PSS – (‘Me, are you messing!?’). But despite her huge amounts of modesty, Natalie’s dogged determination to do right by the people she supports in this story epitomises not just what our Supported Living service is all about, but the spirit of PSS, too.

The whole time I’ve been at PSS, I’ve known Peter* (Peter’s been with Supported Living for about 17 years) and for that whole time I’ve always known that he wanted a dog. After knowing Peter all this time we’ve become really close. I’ve literally grown up with him. Peter is very mischievous, very funny, but also very caring. He has a learning disability and he first moved into Supported Living because he was in an abusive relationship that he managed to get out of. I just remember him sticking ‘beware of the dog’ stickers all around the house and dropping loads of hints that he’d loved to have a dog living with him – it was made pretty clear! His sister has two dogs and he enjoyed walking them and was always buzzing when he’d spent the day with them. The housing association that looks after the Supported Living house he was living in didn’t allow dogs, though, so we couldn’t give him what he wanted. But we’re all about giving people choice and independence here, so that ‘no’ just didn’t sit right with me.

Turn to page 77 of our wonderful centenary book, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund: ‘What Ought to be Done’, to read Natalie’s story: https://bit.ly/PSSCentenarybook

And, please let us know what you thought of our book, which we thank our friends at National Lottery Heritage Fund for making possible: bit.ly/PSSCentSurvey


Valery’s story

In 1938, with the war imminent, preparation started across the country to establish a network of emergency services. The first Citizens Advice Bureau opened on September 4th 1939 – and PSS was involved in rolling out the government scheme in Merseyside, setting up the first official Citizens Advice Bureau in the region. However, what many people don’t know is that the idea had already been planted at PSS many years before by general secretary Dorothy Keeling. Before the first official Citizens Advice Bureau had opened its doors, PSS provided a walk-in advice service, offering immediate help to people in crisis situations and those experiencing difficulty. A snapshot of one day saw PSS helping people with problems including: rent, homelessness, child support, unemployment and pension payments, support for relatives with disabilities and mental health needs, accidents at work, urgent need for food, clothing or footwear needs, costs of health care and advice on birth control and abortions. In 1970, Valery approached PSS after she found out she was five weeks pregnant. At seventeen years old, she felt that she couldn’t talk to her family and desperately needed someone to lend a friendly ear and show her that she wasn’t alone. Thankfully, PSS was waiting in the wings…

Read Valery’s story from page 165: https://bit.ly/PSSCentenarybook


In 1961 Jeremy, who later became a PSS volunteer, was supported by Merseyside Ex-Prisoners of War Association – otherwise known as The Freedom Programme. This was for Far-Eastern prisoners of war when they returned to the UK from Burma and India. They’d seen and experienced some horrific things, which haunted them daily in the most awful ways. The feelings these men were having were never diagnosed; post-traumatic stress was still yet to be identified as a mental illness, and there was no support around back then to help them through it. There was still a big stigma surrounding mental health, and for a lot of men returning from war, talking about any mental health challenges they may have been experiencing felt taboo. This led them to feel lonely and isolated, unsure of what to do next and with nobody to really understand what they were going through.

So, PSS stepped in to provide this ground-breaking service, supporting men with their emotions and the practical implications of these on their life. This began laying the foundations for a revolution in mental health support.

Many men like Jeremy were so inspired by the support they received in this service by specialist therapists and volunteers alike that they went on to become trustees of subsequentorganisations supporting many more men like them.

Flick to page 43 of our wonderful centenary book, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund: ‘What Ought to be Done’, to read Jeremy’s volunteer story: bit.ly/PSSCentenarybook

And, please let us know what you thought of our book, which we thank our friends at National Lottery Heritage Fund for making possible: bit.ly/PSSCentSurvey

Joe, you’ll never walk alone

By listening to and learning from people about exactly how and when they want to be supported, at PSS we’re able to provide support that is tailored to each person who uses our services. In our Supported Living service, we give people who have a learning disability or mental health needs just the right amount of support to help them live their lives to the fullest, with as much independence as possible. It’s our job to support people to get what they want out of life, and to make sure their voice is heard no matter what challenge they may be experiencing.

For our centenary book we chatted to lots of people about PSS people we’ve supported past and present. Kirsty, one of our support workers, told us about Joe who had really touched her heart during the time she’d supported him, before he sadly passed away some years ago…

‘When Joe, who used our Supported Living service, became ill, we spoke to him a lot about what he wanted to happen. We wanted to make sure we knew exactly what he wanted. He was sick for a few years and we could see him deteriorating, but he was fighting. Even right up until the last day, he was fighting. We asked him if he’d like to move on to somewhere where he could maybe be better looked after, but he just wanted to stay. He wanted to die in the place where he had experienced happiness.’

‘When Joe passed we washed him down and put him in the clothes that he wanted to be in. We made sure to the last detail that whatever he wanted, he got. For his funeral we played, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. He wanted people to talk about him and afterwards everyone came back for a drink because Joe liked a pint! It was really important to celebrate his life because he was such a lovely, lovely man. We had to make sure that he got everything. Joe was a war baby and he’d tell the most amazing stories. He didn’t ask for much during life but it was honour to make his final wishes come true.’

Turn to page 47 of our wonderful centenary book, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund: ‘What Ought to be Done’, to read Joe’s story: https://bit.ly/PSSCentenarybook

And, please let us know what you thought of our book, which we thank our friends at National Lottery Heritage Fund for making possible: bit.ly/PSSCentSurvey