A spring of potential: social care lies dormant.

Yesterday along with what felt like the whole of the west of Scotland I went to Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. On a gloriously bright sunny even if not hot day this National Trust treasure on the Ayrshire cost was alive with thousands of individuals. In no small part I was there to find the treasure at the end of an Easter Egg Hunt, as I was walked around the estate searching for the 14 clues that would lead to the prize of chocolate delight. But as I left hours later foot-sore but renewed and refreshed it was not the chocolate that was uppermost in my mind (okay just a bit) but the beauty of the sights and visions which I had witnessed. And as I left and reflected the entire day was summarised for me in one word, dormant.

I don’t think I have ever before felt that one word described so fully the panoply of images that I had seen in the hours I spent at Culzean. Dormant is defined in the dictionary as ‘having normal physical functions suspended or slowed down for a period of time; in or as if in a deep sleep.’ ‘alive but not actively growing.

Everywhere I looked there were signs of buds coming through the hard earth, of trees wakening with fruitful promise, roses yawning into the early steps of a summer of blooming beauty. The whole place felt like I had walked in on the final minutes of a deep long winter sleep, as signs of spring and life beckoned the viewer into the beginnings of something new, unique and radiant. I have never before in such a complete sense caught that sense of spring, of hopefulness, of expectation.

I am sitting here writing this very aware that this is the Easter weekend where for millions across the globe the sense of expectation is one of anticipating tomorrow Easter Sunday, a day re-orientating the worlds of believers once again to re-direct people to hope, to new life and resurrection. It is a season for creative new beginning, restoration and renewal.

Whether because of a religious festival, or because of the visible realities around us there is indeed today a sense of the dormant. Of a world birthing possibility into being, of pregnant hope about to be born into possibility.

These last few weeks I have spent much time writing and talking about the challenges facing social care in both the care home and homecare sector in Scotland. As I sit here this Easter weekend, I have too much evidence before me that we are at a point of real criticality where the next few days and weeks and the political and fiscal decisions made during them will have a profound and lasting effect on our whole society and not just upon social care.

But I am also increasingly aware of the dormant nature of social care in Scotland. This is a sector whose tens of thousands of paid workers and whose tens and thousands of unpaid carers, exhausted, diminished and drained as they are have so much indescribable passion left and so much untapped and unappreciated potential. This is a sector who like a volcano lying dormant through decades has so much potential to burst into flame and fire. This is a sector which like the butterfly lying dormant has the potential to take flight into beautiful creativity.

Social care is not and never has been a set of transactions and tasks, it is a way of relating to another which enables someone to be supported to live their lives as they want and need to, to achieve their potential, to flourish, thrive and come alive. Social care is not about budgets and balance sheets, its about relationships and the realities of loving and living in community. Social care is about connection and aloneness, about being heard and hearing absence. Social care is the giftedness of skilled professionals who have the capacity to be with others at the cutting points of pain and emptiness, and the skills and gifts of being able to grant assurance, offer direction, and uphold despite all.

There is so much potential in our social care workforce if only they were better valued and recognised, rewarded and remunerated. There is so much giftedness in those who support and care for a loved one in family home and neighbourhood, if only we valued and recognised them better and gave true respite and support to their loving and giving. There is so much that the women and men who live in our streets and villages and do so by support and care have to give their communities and neighbours. There is so much more that those limited by age and disability, by condition and circumstance, have to give to their local places and people, if only we could as a society and political leadership allow that offer to be made through our action of establishing a properly resourced and prioritised social care system

The potential of social care in this spring weekend, to transform the whole of our society and community is enormous. The ability of this sector and its talented workforce to be the agents of a wider societal renewal and re-orientation is beyond description, if only we treated it and them as a sector worthy of investment, priority and economic recognition.

Dormant is a word which today describes social care in Scotland but that which is dormant can either come to life, and resurrect the whole of living, or it can stay untapped and unreleased, a potential lost by the failure to recognise its contribution. It is time to wake up the sleeping potential of social care for the whole of Scotland. In this season of hope and expectation, it is time for social care to be allowed to come alive and change us all.

Donald Macaskill

Last Updated on 20th April 2023 by Shanice