I talk a lot about people having the opportunity to achieve their potential. Achieving our potential is not simply about youngsters getting the chance for work or for college – it’s about everyone living the life they choose and getting the best support there is to do that – whether they are 9 or 99
The Scottish Government yesterday launched a National Conversation on the future of Health and Social Care in Scotland. You can see Shona Robison talking about it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFRnrH2CnQs&noredirect=1
Social Care is one of the biggest issues facing our constituency over the course of the next parliament. There are around 657,300 unpaid carers in Scotland and they save our government around £10 billion a year. During this parliament we have seen key pieces of legislation and some changes which lay the foundations of better care; the Self Directed Support (Scotland) Act, the Carers Bill and the Integration of health and Social care.
Whilst these are to be welcomed, they are only a foundation and still need considerable work done, building on the legislation to ensure that what is delivered on the ground – particularly in rural areas – lives up to the spirit of this legislation and actually delivers good quality care across both well and sparsely populated areas.
When I started working with unpaid carers I very quickly learned that carers and the people they care for have to fight for every single thing they get. Whether caring for a child, a parent, a spouse, a family member or a friend, people are having to fight from the minute they realise they need support, and then keep on fighting no matter how hard, how exhausting, how worried, how ill they are. I have met carers caring for now grown up children who are seeing the parents of young children fighting the same battles they thought they had won years ago. That can’t be right.
We have seen support reduce in rural areas and we still have people who are told that they must have a certain type of support at a time to suit the care provider not the person requiring care or the unpaid carer. This is completely against the whole ethos of person centred support where the need and opinions of those requiring care and giving unpaid care should be at the heart of what is delivered. We have seen respite reduced, cancelled and almost unavailable in several areas and we have seen the demand for unpaid carers to use a day of their respite to travel often many miles to deliver their loved one to their respite and then another day required to collect the person and bring them home. That turns a week of desperately needed break into five days and makes it difficult to go away or relax.
In Highland we need innovation in care, we need to look at ways to provide care for people in rural areas in a cost effective and compassionate way. We need to stop people feeling like they have to fight and we need better and more flexible care and respite. We can do that by looking at how we work together to use personal budgets to provide care in a remote location, by offering better support to those people wanting to employ their own personal assistants and by protecting the traditional services so that people who don’t want to manage their own budget also get the care they need tailored to their circumstances. Some of this happens in our areas just now and we need to build on that. We also need to improve the status of care work so that more people are attracted to it as a profession rather than as a stop gap job, leaving as soon as something better comes along. This means improving pay and conditions, offering a career path, qualifications and status. We did it with child care and the Scottish Government can do it with home care and residential care too using tools like the living wage and business support, offering training and qualifications to staff. Society needs to value the care people give and we need to invest in it – many of us are likely to have a caring role in our lives at some point.
As your candidate I will be getting involved with these conversations and I will work hard to improve the lives of carers and make sure that the support for those needing social care is better and more robust, that people involved in the assessing and delivery of care are supported to do a good job and that we explore community and innovative ways of delivering care in our rural areas. I will hold services that fail to deliver to account and support our vital Third Sector in delivering support to the most vulnerable in society. I said that people are having to fight – I do some fighting with them now – as your candidate I will continue with that – supporting people, supporting our communities and standing up for the best services we can get. That’s what I mean about making sure people have the opportunity for better lives.