Lynn Williams, Health and Social Care Coordinator for GCVS, blogs in advance of the upcoming Scottish Budget, looking at relevant messages coming from the ‘Our World Reimagined’ series and what needs to be included in the detail in early December.   She calls for a sharper focus on and action to ensure the recovery of social care as ‘mission critical’ to wider economic and social recovery.

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The political games have already begun as we approach the Scottish Budget on 9 December.

Whilst there is a welcome and absolutely necessary focus on child poverty, there are other challenges which must also be addressed if this budget is to truly help Scotland recover from the ongoing (never-ending) COVID pandemic and wider, systemic economic and social challenges.

This pandemic is not over – not by any stretch of the imagination.  We need to see acknowledgement of this on the 9th.  We have many thousands of people still being infected, still having their lives turned upside down by this very clever virus – that will continue to have profound implications for public services in the coming months.

What’s missing for me is a broader, strategic analysis of where we are; I cannot see a deep understanding of the economic and social impact of continued infections and continued pressures on health and care.  There still appears to be no place for the experience, the voices – the continued fear and struggles – of families and communities who have been hardest hit over the last 20 months, in the corridors of power.

At GCVS, the “Our World Reimagined– Social Care” series has provided strong messages about the experiences, challenges and inequalities for groups such as disabled people and black and minority ethnic communities.  We’ve heard input from family carers, from charities in the very frontline telling us of the hidden battles and traumas faced by families who lost hard fought for social care services; who have fought to coordinate end of life care in a fragmented and at times dysfunctional health and care system.  We have heard of isolation, loneliness, trauma and yes, the struggle just to survive whilst the rest of the country moves back to some semblance of normality.

I’ve used the phrase ‘two track recovery’ on various occasions.   We’ve heard from families and communities who are unable to go out, to reconnect with their communities –whose lives are still locked down within the four walls of their homes.  As COVID case numbers remain high and as key public services like social care remain fractured, they do not feel safe and they feel as if they’re being left behind.

Many key community services like day centres remain shut or are only partially opened. The services relied on by people with disabilities are the last ones to restart, symptomatic of wider inequalities which existed pre COVID, and which are much more ingrained now.

The consistent political focus on the NHS draws attention away from the sluggish recovery of community care services and the continued withdrawal of even ‘life and limb’ care services.  We haven’t even recovered social care to pre-pandemic levels.  The Winter Plan, with its focus on recruiting staff to the NHS, risks further fragmentation of social care and may achieve the opposite of what the Government set out to do.

The Scottish Budget on 9th December provides one last chance before the depths of winter to acknowledge and address these issues.

The Budget provides a point in time and a chance for the Cabinet to reach out to us in the voluntary sector; to reach out to families and communities hardest hit.   The implementation of Feeley and the next steps for a National Care Service need to be at the heart of financial planning and at the heart of this Budget.  Social care and community infrastructure investment and recovery need to feature heavily in spending announcements.

When we look at the cost of living challenges, we must see action to urgently remove care charging; we can no longer delay paying social and community care staff a decent wage.

Without a clear focus on social care recovery, we cannot have a fair or just economic recovery; we cannot help people to get back to living the lives that others still take for granted.

If we do not seek to have social care recovery at the heart of this Budget, then it seems we’ve learned nothing from the horrors of the last 20 months.

Lynn Williams
GCVS Health and Social Care Coordinator

Watch the youtube playlist: Our World Reimagined – Social Care series