We warmly welcome the review report and its aim of turning round the language, debate and experiences linked to social care in Scotland. Moving away from the focus on finance, crisis, burden and talking about those who are ‘vulnerable’ is central to reform.
The review has extensively acknowledged the many challenges within the current social care set up – and these challenges have been highlighted by the third sector and the families we work with for a very long time. Eligibility, bureaucracy, issues around transition, charging, a focus on life and limb rather than helping people to live their best life – the desperation and struggles faced by families who look for assistance.
We very much welcome the recognition of the important role of community infrastructure, of community services (and the need to invest in them) and on prevention. The third sector’s role in social care and community support is significant and life changing and we believe that there is so much more that charities, community groups and social enterprises can do in this space. For too long, that has not been recognised and the sector’s battle for sustainable funding limits its reach and impact.
We have some concern that we may end up focussing on structures and processes rather than genuine change – that we don’t learn from our experiences of integration of health and care and previous reforms. Ensuring that policy and planning for social care is directly shaped by disabled and older people, unpaid carers and the third sector is mission critical, and we are delighted to see the focus on this throughout the report.
We absolutely agree that social care is an investment – a key vehicle for achieving the kinds of goals outlined in the National Performance Framework. Money invested in these services can save and transform lives – and we need finally to acknowledge that some of our fellow citizens have so far been denied the opportunities to live well that so many of us take for granted. Those inequalities were thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic. The value, reach, and life enhancing impact of social care should never again be doubted or devalued.
The implementation gap identified by the review is deeply ingrained and pervasive and in the past, positive language and words have not been enough to change the narrative or change delivery. However, it is hard not to read this report and have a real sense of hope, of all of us being at a crossroads. We urge the Scottish Government to take this report on board and whilst we look at the longer term, we must also work together to identify what can be done now to improve the experience and outcomes for families and communities across Scotland.
The third sector stands ready as ever to be part of the change so desperately needed – to shape a fairer, more ambitious, more equal and world leading social care system and services.