Creating a care and compassion economy

Within three days we will know who the new First Minister of Scotland will be and I am sure we will all be pleased for a degree of settled reality after what has felt to be quite a few turbulent weeks.  I have used this blog in the last few weeks to reflect on some of the priorities for the social care sector and to identify the critical needs of the care home, homecare, housing support and day services sector in Scotland, not least for our older citizens. I have attempted to articulate the urgent need for our incoming leader to address the critical issues of workforce terms and conditions and to be blunt the near collapse of many social care providers regardless of whether or not they are a charity, private organisation nor employee-owned organisation.

In the last few days, the candidates have been talking a lot more about their ideas for the economy. Clearly what they say on this matter has huge import for our ability as a nation to both prioritise and afford the sort of urgent reforms that I have argued for long are needed in the social care and health space.

One of the phrases that has been much used is the idea of a ‘wellbeing economy.’ Now there are many different definitions for a concept which has developed over the last 15 years or so, to the point at which it is now at the heart of the previous Scottish administration.

In a report published by the Scottish Government in late November last year, which provides a toolkit to support economic policy and strategy a fuller description is given:

“Wellbeing can be defined as ‘living well’ and is about ‘how we’re doing’ as individuals, communities and as a nation – and how sustainable that is for the future.

While definitions vary, a wellbeing economy can be described as an economic system operating within safe environmental limits, that serves the collective wellbeing of current and future generations first and foremost.

It is a system that empowers communities to take a greater stake in the economy, with more wealth generated, circulated and retained within local communities, while protecting and investing in the natural environment for generations to come. It provides opportunities for everyone to access fair, meaningful work, and values and supports responsible, purposeful businesses to thrive and innovate.

The approach recognises that reducing inequality and improving the lives of citizens through a human rights-based, social justice approach can also make the economy more resilient. It supports the transformations in our economy and society needed to thrive within the planet’s sustainable limits and capitalises on the opportunities this creates for improving people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing, tackling inequalities and supporting green jobs and businesses.”

It is rooted in certain core principles of Dignity, Participation, Fairness, Nature, and Purpose. Not much that could be disagreed with in all that. But what does it really mean? How can it be achieved? And is it all not just window dressing? Certainly, there seemed to be a bit of difference amongst the candidates for leadership of our nation not least in the role of wealth creation in such an economic modelling.

Alongside the concepts of a wellbeing economy there are other models and some of these are more focussed upon practical dimensions of human living. One such is the idea of recognising, valuing and in some instances creating a care economy.

This has and is gaining much prominence in the United States. One definition describes it as:

“the paid and unpaid labour related to caregiving such as childcare, elder care, and domestic chores—is a critical sector that enhances economic growth, gender equity, and women’s empowerment.”

The World Economic Forum has recently begin to argue that we need to reconceive our views of the importance of care as an economic driver, motivator and priority, not least since the impact and effects of Covid19. It argues:

“The care economy comprehends those activities that people perform daily, often in our homes, including chores or taking care of other persons, such as infants or the elderly. These chores, such as cleaning up a house or shopping for groceries, are typically not paid, and even less are considered productive.”

It is refreshing to read such a re-prioritisation. Is it time for Scotland to begin to explore the concepts behind a care economy? This goes way beyond those who deliver care and support to a re-conception of our whole economic framework into one whose central direction is the care cohesiveness aof the whole nation. It understands care as a critical economic driver with a primary aim which is inclusive of wellbeing but goes further both ecologically and economically. That is why compassion sits alongside care – the purpose of a care economic model is to ensure that all fiscal decisions are rooted in a compassionate ethic and morality. The weight of such a statement will not be lost on many who are facing the impacts of the savage cuts into social care and other provision being announced this last week by a number of Scottish local authorities. Perhaps the most distressing – in part because of volume has been those cuts to social care being accepted by Glasgow City Council who announced a £22m cut in budget. But there are other council areas proposing and planning even larger percentage cuts. There are going to be inevitable real losses as a result of these plans which will profoundly affect the lives of those being cared for and supported and those who work and care for and support them. In every sense they will limit care and cause harm.

There is a real opportunity at the start of a new administration to explore our whole economic modelling. The World Economic Forum has started work on the whole concept of a care and compassion economy. It has stated that whilst the care economy is usually not considered as a productive activity, because it is chiefly carried out by women, nevertheless data collected by the Colombian government demonstrates that the care economy could have a significant impact on a country’s GDP. It has with Colombia suggested a reform in the payment norms behind the care economy which would benefit women that can’t take other jobs due to time constraints. It has gone further by indicating that unpaid care which is fundamental to the cohesion of most economies should become paid or remunerated for in some ways.

A radical re-design of our economic basis is required which recognises that social care is a major economic contributor to the Scottish economy and as I have oft said should not be considered as a drain or deficit but should be reconsidered as an economic driver and asset to be built, developed and nurtured. Such a feminisation of economic priority would be a massive contributor in the re-design of our civic responsibility and economic modelling.

In the last month my colleagues and myself at Scottish Care have sought to #shinealight on the amazing women and men, organisations and bodies who deliver social care support across Scotland. We have sought to increase a message centred around the importance of us all beginning to #careaboutcare. That is in part an economic response which involves a re-prioritisation and a re-allocation of the limited fiscal resources we have as a country. I have argued against the injustice and inequity of social care staff being treated so discriminatorily and unfairly when compared to colleagues in the NHS.

If our new First Minister is to start to #careaboutcare then there are immediate practical first steps they can take to re-balance our health and social care systems. But in the medium to long term there are real opportunities to re-conceive our economy not solely on the basis of a wellbeing approach but one which explicitly advances and develops the ideas behind the ‘care economy’. I like the idea of living in a society where a care and compassion economy limits the likelihood of people having to decide to limit, cut or end the delivery of life-affirming care and support.

Donald Macaskill



Mothering absence: a reflection

This coming Sunday is Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day. It is an opportunity to celebrate the role of mothers and women at this time of year which is not exactly a new thing. Indeed, Wikipedia tells us that such events date back to the time of the ancient Greeks who would celebrate Rhea, the Mother of the Gods and Goddesses, every spring with festivals of worship. The Romans also celebrated a mother Goddess, Cybele, every March as far back as 250BC.

It was under the Christian churches especially since the 16th century that Mothering Sunday began to be held on the fourth Sunday in Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and was originally a day to honour and give thanks to the Virgin Mary. With it across the UK the practice of returning to the Mother Church to visit the mother church of your area and to see your mother began to be celebrated. The coming together of families and uniting children who had moved a distance away or who had been in service and work elsewhere was one that was much appreciated. It was in the time of few ‘holy-days’ an opportunity to have a day off and to spend it with your mother.

Yet it was not until the last century with an influence from the United States and Anna Jarvis that Mother’s Day began to be celebrated annually so much so that Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement in the UK, and in 1921 she wrote a book asking for the revival of the festival.

It has grown and grown and there are few places you could go in a shopping street today in Scotland without seeing reference to Mother’s Day. For some that might induce feelings of guilt that they have not got a card or flowers or a gift, but for many others as I heard at first hand this week, it is a very visible reminder of absence.

In my work on bereavement, I have become increasingly aware of just how hard public anniversaries and celebrations are for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Mother’s Day has a special poignancy because of its presence in our communities and in the media at this time of year. For some it is a fantastic opportunity to remind themselves of the care and nurturing they have received from their mother. And after all that isn’t easy. There are no ‘How to’ books in terms of being a mother or indeed a parent. It is a journey made in the steps of love with all the trips and obstacles that a growing child experiences and a maturing mother knows. But for the vast majority who in adulthood have a healthy and positive relationship with their mother, it is a nurturing and bond which will remain with us forever. And that is what for so many makes this a hard weekend.

I have met Gary on quite a few occasions, and we communicate on social media. He is a widow with two children under the age of ten. He absolutely dreads Mother’s Day because it is such a visible reminder of absence and emptiness. But this year he has decided to face it head on and to use the day as a moment to mark memory, to celebrate the mum who is no longer around; through the tears of recollection to talk with his girls about their feelings and the aching soreness they feel that mum is not there to watch their dancing display, to read to them at bedtime, to go to the shops and chose clothes or jewellery with them and so so so much more. So this week he has helped his children to make mother’s day cards not to give on a breakfast in bed tray but to place at her gravestone.

This is a hard day for those who have lost their mothers and for mothers who have lost their children and for partners who have lost their lover and for grandparents who have lost their grandchildren. I hope we give one another space to capture a sense of the original Mothering Sunday which had to do with reconnecting to what and who were important in our life; less to do with cards and cakes. More to do with company and togethernes.

And today I cannot but think of all the folks I know, one of whom I spent some time with this week, for whom mum is still present but absent in a way that break’s their heart, taken into a space where dementia holds court and where memory sits apart. For them I think of Bob Hicock’s poem, Alzheimer’s.

Wherever our mothers are, be they beside us or inside our hearts, I hope tomorrow is a day of memory that makes life worth celebrating and love worth holding even closer.

“Chairs move by themselves, and books.

Grandchildren visit, stand

new and nameless, their faces’ puzzles

missing pieces. She’s like a fish

in deep ocean, its body made of light.

She floats through rooms, through

my eyes, an old woman bereft

of chronicle, the parable of her life.

And though she’s almost a child

there’s still blood between us:

I passed through her to arrive.

So I protect her from knives,

stairs, from the street that calls

as rivers do, a summons to walk away,

to follow. And dress her,

demonstrate how buttons work,

when she sometimes looks up

and says my name, the sound arriving

like the trill of a bird so rare

it’s rumored no longer to exist.”

from Plus Shipping, Copyright (c) 1998 by Bob Hicock. Reproduced by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., published at Alzheimer’s by Bob Hicock – Scottish Poetry Library

Donald Macaskill

Technologies for living with dementia

Since beginning the Care Technologist project, the team have picked up from conversations that there can sometimes be a misconception that technologies do not fit into a support plan for people living with dementia. This is suggested partly due to a gap in understanding the variety of ways people and technology can interact together. We are going to de-bunk this today!

To understand the variety of ways technology exists in our lives, it’s important to first look at our perceptions of what technology is and how we interact with it.

So, what is technology?

The Care Technologist team consider technology to be any device, system or tool that has been scientifically designed with the purpose of enabling and supporting practical living. This means that technology doesn’t have to be plugged in, downloaded, signed up for or turned on – as long as it’s designed for assisting or streamlining practical living, it has a technological use. While technology does not have to be for everyone, the team believe that everyone should have the choice to use technology in their daily lives.

What are the ways that technology interacts?

Secondly, the way we interact with technology can differ. There are many devices, systems and tools that require a user – someone to turn it on, sign up, log in, and operate it in order to access the benefits. Some technology requires this only at the beginning of use, others not at all. The latter technology is simply working in the background, supporting practical living just by being there – providing prompts and reminders, sensory support, allowing communication and monitoring safety. This sort of technology can be especially useful for those who don’t want the burden of managing multiple devices, being responsible for charging and updating it, or don’t have the knowledge of how to do these things.

Finally, when considering how technology can support people living with dementia, it’s important to be aware of the varying stages and types of dementia, and how different symptoms can interact or affect technology use. There are over 200 sub-types of dementia which present different challenges, ranging from changes to mobility, cognition, sight and judgement (data from Dementia UK). Some technology will be more suitable for some people than others, but there will always be technology to support people, regardless of the type of dementia they live with.

With this in mind, we’ve compiled a shortlist of technology we are currently working with that supports practical living, that is especially beneficial for supporting people living with forms of dementia.

Kettle Companion

Kettle Companions (a small light-up sphere) can be placed in a loved ones’ home to allow light touch monitoring. A secondary twin device is placed in a family member’s home which will turn to a different colour when their loved one is boiling their kettle, or in the instance the kettle hasn’t boiled by a pre-set time.

Locating tags

Tags are a versatile tracker for keys, bags, phones, remote controls and more. This device works with Bluetooth, can be managed via smartphone app and can pinpoint a lost item on a map. If you have the tile handy, it’s possible to reverse the locator and find the smartphone too.

Hydration reminders

These small devices attach to any water bottle or standard sized glass and blink to remind you to hydrate, can detect when you take a drink. Ideal reminders for those who need a gentle prompt to stay hydrated, but only use a blinking light to do so – therefore not ideal for those with low vision. We’re looking for other hydration reminders that support a wider range of people, so stay tuned!

Companion pet

Robotic pets such as cats are great for homes unable to host animals and have proven to be a therapeutic aid for people living with dementia. The team have seen these pets work wonders for residents in a care home setting and bring lots of joy to those around them!

  • Cat purrs, sleeps, reacts to attention
  • Can be muted while turned on
  • Uses batteries

Universal remote

A simplified TV remote can be a small adjustment to make, but great for improving independence. The remote pairs to any TV, and reduces the button varieties to just the essentials.

  • Large buttons that are easy to press and well-spaced out
  • Ideal for people living with dementia or with low visibility

If you would like to know more about technology that we are using to support people to live well and independently, we have collated a catalogue of technology we are currently using in the Care Technologist project. If you would like to be sent a copy, please email [email protected] and specify if you would like a digital or paper copy.

For more information on technology, dementia and assisted living, we think these links below are worth a look at too:

Dear next First Minister of Scotland.

Dear next First Minister of Scotland.

I am writing this open letter to you all appreciating currently that you are very busy campaigning for the role as leader of the SNP and as a consequence as First Minister of Scotland.

You may not be aware that today is the last day of National Careers Week. It is a week where right across the country schools and colleges have been focussing on supporting young people and others to think about their next steps and future careers. In some senses for each of you the campaigns you are all now engaged are about taking your own careers to the next level.

You will therefore doubtless appreciate that the importance of helping young people and others who might be seeking a change in their job role or career is a key part of the work of organisations such as Scottish Care, representing as we do hundreds of charities, private providers and employee-owned organisations in social care who employ tens of thousands of our fellow Scots. As part of our month-long campaign #careaboutcare this past week we have been publishing videos and stories of those who work in homecare and care homes across the country. Who better to tell others of the amazing valuable role of care and support than those who are doing it every day!

Working in care and support is a job like no other. Yet what a care worker does today is unrecognisable to what might have been happening ten or twenty years ago, but we suspect that many people still hold an outdated view of the job of care. Care and support roles are regulated, they require the person to be registered and also over time demand that person gains a qualification. The women and men who work in social care are highly skilled professionals who undertake such important work. This is the life-changing work that helps people remain independent, live the sort of life they want, and if they require additional support to provide that in a way that values their voice, treats them with dignity and which places their control and choice at the centre. Working in care and support is an amazing role. That is why we spend so much time encouraging others as we have with young people this past week to consider a career in care. There are few jobs or careers which allow an individual to change the lives of others quite literally and to be with folks through the hardest and most challenging moments of their life.

I am sure you will therefore have no difficulty in agreeing with me that our frontline carers model the best of who we are as a society and that it is the responsibility and duty of those who lead us, who make decisions around budgets and how we spend our resources, to in turn treat our frontline social care staff with equal dignity, respect, and value.

Yet sadly that is not what we have been hearing in the days since we started our campaign. We are instead hearing from workers who are contemplating leaving the sector because they have been told that all they are worth is £10.90 an hour which is as you know is nearly 20% less than someone doing the same job in the NHS. It doesn’t much feel to them that there is value and respect. We are hearing that the lack of fair contracts and low levels of resource are stopping employers from offering better terms and conditions, including secure salaries to frontline workers. We are hearing that people are exhausted and tired because they continue to face so many challenges and risks to their health, yet they do not have the protections that others have. We are hearing of dedicated skilled individuals growing weary that years of promise and  declared priority have come to nothing.

Our simple ask of you is ‘How much do you really value social care both in terms of its workforce and its organisations?’

 I know that campaigns are often full of rhetoric and promises but the women and men who are struggling through snow and poor weather conditions today at all times of the day to go out and care for others – they deserve to know what you plan to do about social care if you become First Minister? How much in very straight terms are you prepared to pay our frontline carers? Will you continue to say £10.90 is all they are worth because that is what you can afford? Will you find monies as you did for the teachers and our NHS colleagues or do social care staff not count in the same way and are somehow lower down on the scale of value?  So please tweet, speak or announce what your plans for social care are.

Those who are contemplating a career in social care regardless of their age deserve to know under your leadership the extent to which you value them, the organisations that employ them and perhaps most of all the people who receive the care and support they provide. Is it worth making social care a career for life? Are we going to see our frontline care and support staff receive a pay award that treats them with dignity and respect?


Thank you.

Donald Macaskill

Time to Shine a Light on Social Care: the time for action is now.

On Wednesday 1st March I was delighted to be able to attend the virtual launch of the Scottish Care led social care campaign which runs the month of March. It is a campaign which whilst led by Scottish Care is involving a range of others – its primary purpose is to raise the profile of all the key issues facing the social care sector at the present time. In a week which has witnessed so much debate and discussion around social care the need for this campaign has never been more necessary and urgent.

There are several main themes in the campaign and one of them is to help us all have a greater understanding of what social care is. Regular readers of this blog will know how much I bemoan the way in which social care is continually – not least by the media and by our political leaders – seen through the lens of the NHS. Yes social care when it is functioning at its best is able to reduce the demand on our acute and secondary health services. Yes, social care can help to address the huge number of people who are unnecessarily delayed in hospital. But in truth if you only see social care through an NHS lens then you will effectively be blind to its extent and to its promise.

Social care is many things but at its heart it is a set of services and supports, whether for children, adults or older people, which enables people to live to their fullest; allows them independence, purpose, control and choice and helps all our communities to flourish and thrive.

To achieve this, we have some of the most progressive policy and legislation anywhere in the world but have sorely failed to implement these in practice. This week we have heard that the plans to create a National Care Service are now on pause which in itself was an attempt to address the gaps between aspiration and implementation, rhetoric and reality.

But in truth social care in Scotland has not been reaching its potential for a very long time – the patient has been in intensive care and in need of resuscitation – and the major reason for that is the lack of appreciation and value which has for years resulted in a woeful inadequacy of financing and investment in not only the workforce but in the organisations that employ them. It is reflected in the fact that there are hundreds upon hundreds of individuals living in our communities who have social care needs, some assessed , many not. The high level of unmet need is just as critical and dangerous as the delayed discharges in our hospitals but receives a tenth of the attention and focus it deserves. The inadequacy of treatment is especially seen in the way in which we reward, recognise and pay our frontline social care staff. I think it is frankly obscene at a time when the massive recruitment challenges facing social care are talked about so openly and so frequently that we have in the last few weeks created such a chasm between social care and the NHS.

The pay offer which has been negotiated for NHS colleagues and which has been much lauded (even if to date not formally accepted) has rightly valued our nurses and health care workers. But what might have escaped those patting their own backs is the real world effect which means that from April 2023 a social care frontline carer will be paid nearly 20% less for doing the same job as a frontline healthcare assistant in the NHS. This chasm is shameful. What about all the talk of integrated services – of one system – of co-dependency, and an appreciation that the NHS without social care is like a one-sided coin? What are we going to do about this arithmetic of disgrace?

We find ourselves in the midst of a leadership battle within the SNP and in the weeks up till the 27th March we seem to have entered into a no-man’s land of decision paralysis – meanwhile social care organisations are losing staff hand over fist and frontline workers are looking over at colleagues in the NHS and wondering why is there such unequal treatment. After all social care staff are registered, regulated and require to be qualified. Why no equality? Why no level playing field?

And lest someone reads this and falls foul of the easy trap of blaming charitable or private providers they need to be reminded that over 70% of social care is paid for by the public purse at rates of contract that make it impossible to pay staff what they deserve and still remain sustainable as a charity or a private provider. That is why every week in the last few weeks I have had owners and directors of charities, care homes and home care organisations in tears telling me that they will have to close, hand back work, refuse to accept any more Council funded residents because they pay at least 40% less than what the true cost is, or indeed stop receiving any new residents. You cannot ever reach the land of fair pay for workers if you do not have fair contracts and commissioning. We are reaping the harvest of fiscal neglect and a lack of strategic priority.

The responsibility for the enduring long-term crisis in Scotland’s social care system is the culpability of national and local government. What else can you call a 20% differential between the NHS and social care? What else can you call the reality that in-house local authority care homes on average spend £1,200 plus a week to support a care home resident and yet the same authorities pay private or charitable care homes around £830 a week for nursing care and support which is about £5 an hour to care for some of our most valuable citizens.

There is a deadening hypocrisy which has for years corrupted the social care landscape and we have now reached a stage where unless central Government funds an adequate pay reward for frontline social care staff, invests resource in meeting the energy and cost of living crisis, works with the sector to make Scotland’s small often family run private care businesses and smaller care charities sustainable, then we might as well say goodbye to any local social care provision, forget about economic growth because families will have to give up their jobs to support their relatives, and start accepting the reality of an unsafe NHS. And let us not forget the neglect of the thousands of unpaid family carers for so many years.

Everyone will rely on social care at some point in their lives, and it is a truism that the sector only becomes important when that happens. But in truth the urgency of this hour means that there might not be a sector around to provide the support you and I might need in the future unless we act now. We want to see action taken to tackle the social care crisis.

I dearly want the leadership candidates for First Minister to start telling us what they are going to do to rescue social care because it is going to be, whether they recognise it or not, a top priority in the early weeks and months of their time in office. I want them to tell us beyond campaign soundbite how much they value social care staff – and let it not be £10.90 an hour. I want them to show me how much they value social care away from the shadow of the NHS? I want them to show me they really understand why hundreds and thousands of talented professionals are leaving the sector and to commit to working with  with us to support the organisations that employ them. If a factory closes or a major employer ceases to operate we set up a Task Force – we urgently need such priority in virtually every community across our land. A slick paid-for TV campaign to recruit people to work in a sector that cannot afford to retain them won’t cut it.

Now is the time to #careaboutcare. Now is the time to #shinealight on the social care sector; to get beyond the myths and discover the amazing women and men who are the cradlers of compassion within all our communities. They deserve so much more than Scotland has given them. They and the charities and private organisations that have kept social care afloat in Scotland are weary, tired and exhausted but they know that now not a future land of promise, is the time to save social care in Scotland.

Join our campaign and find out more at

Donald Macaskill

Technology thoughts for social care: positivity and threat.

It’s been a busy week in the world of technology, data and social care in Scotland. I managed that rare thing of attending the whole of a conference event and to listen to some insightful and interesting speakers. The event was the annual Holyrood Digital Health and Care Technology event. It brought together hundreds of delegates from the health, social care, technology, and data sectors to talk about the priorities of the moment, hear about some amazing innovations and be suitably challenged to think creatively and with imagination. It also combined an Awards evening which celebrated the cutting edge of excellence across Scotland in health and social care. I was honoured to have been one of the judges at an occasion where every nominee really was a winner.

Inevitably one leaves such an experience with a head full of thoughts and feelings, some of which were conflicting and contradictory. I want to share a few of them in this brief blog.

One of the key moments in the two days was the launch of the Scottish Government’s latest data strategy.  In many senses the title of this joint document with local government body COSLA says it all – ‘greater access, better insight, improved outcomes.’ The aims are clear and aspirational and are well articulated within a strategy which hopes to enable a better health and social care experience by the means of an ethical and human rights based use of data. The focus on autonomy and citizen ownership is laudable. The conference contained a lot of debate around data and how valuable our personal story through data was in our achievement of change and progress and yet along with many I was uncomfortable about the extent to which the disparity between the worlds of social care and health were highlighted in much of the debate around data and its use. My colleague Nicola Cooper who was also at the event articulated this in a succinct and prescient manner in a tweet yesterday where she said:

“‘Something has been troubling me. Data, data, data…….mentioned 10,564 times (felt like) at #digihealthcare2023 Conference… So are we saying that Social Care is less mature in its use of data, compared to health?’ The premise being it is…I’m not sure I agree. Here’s why.Social Care data is collected over & over, in different formats, to please different masters, and shared routinely for scrutiny & oversight, scrutiny & oversight (yes, I know I am repeating myself). It invokes negative + disempowering associations…Task driven, de-professionalising, risk averse, overwhelm – get it? Good data, often qualitative, helps with person-led high-quality care. It’s there but buried under the weight of reporting + regulation…. Data is the new gold at the end of the rainbow – always out of touch.

This is where maturity lies. In data driven innovation. Grass roots, by those closest to the challenge who are the most likely to know how to do better – improvement, service redesign, innovation… Will social care achieve data maturity is less of the question than IF social care in its current state is sustainable? (hint, the answer is NO).”

The social care sector has an abundance of rich often qualitative data, and this is immeasurably useful for the improvement of the individual experience of citizens and for the benefit of the whole health and care system but it is only useful if there is an adequacy of priority given to social care providers and staff to enable them to be the harvesters and users of such data in a way which is sustainable and beneficial to the rights and lives of the individual. It is only useful if the data tells the whole story and if social care is enabled to be autonomous and unique in its articulation and not be forced to utilise a data dialect which is not fit for context or purpose – thus the huge significance of the narrative as well as the number within data. Qualitative data matters as much to the outcome of a story as quantitative measures! Yet again the imbalance in strategic priorities between health and social care illustrates the failure of a whole system approach within Scotland.

My second observation of the conference was the extent to which there was a continual reference to the need to develop a digitally trained and competent workforce. At Scottish Care we are no strangers to the necessity of equipping our frontline carers with the tools to enable them to maximise the benefits of technology and digital in order to achieve the best possible outcomes and lives for the people who are supported in their own homes and in our care homes. The Care Technologist programme is an adventurous and innovative approach to ensuring that frontline social care is at the forefront in the challenge of championing that people are enabled to use technology to maximise their personal control and choice in their lives and in their care support. But if such innovation is to become mainstream, it demands an adequacy of resource priority to ensure our care workforce of the present and future is properly equipped, supported, and encouraged to undertake these progressive approaches. And all this at a time when social care providers are struggling to recruit and to retain frontline staff because of the embarrassingly shameful rates of pay which are predicated on inadequate Scottish Government pay awards. You cannot build and equip a technologically confident workforce on the deficit scale of reward and remuneration. There is a massive risk that the future of social care technology and digital usage in Scotland will be a shameful lost opportunity because of a lack of investment in and priority for the care workforce.

My next observation relates to the criticality of cyber and data security. After landing home after the event, I got an alert along with many parents at my local school around on-line security and threat. In this instance it was related to concerns which had been raised around the potential for cyberbullying, grooming or unwanted contact through the Roblox chat functions.  Roblox allows users to create and share their own games, as well as play other users’ games. As any user can create a game, an individual may create or invite a user to join a game that contains adult themes that will expose the child to content inappropriate for their age. No-one with a young child in their family will be unfamiliar with such warnings, and concerns – the world we inhabit is as full of technological threat as it is with digital promise and positivity. To ensure that those who work in and use social care are properly protected and aware both at an organisational and individual level is a massive challenge. This coming week (27th February to the 5th March) is Cyber Security Scotland Week which is an important initiative to make sure that we are all much more aware of the critical issues of cyber and online security. This is a fundamental element of ensuring our futures are one of positivity rather than abuse. The future promise of technology not least in the sensitive arena of health and social care will rise or fall on the extent that we prioritise both awareness of and investment in the protection of data and the development of our cyber security.

My last technology observation for the week relates to something which might seem antithetical to everything that has gone before and to a generally positivist approach to tech. It is simply that we must recognise that technology and digital are tools and not destinations. Like many people since the pandemic my world has become dominated by online meetings and Teams calls. In a very real sense attending a physical event is a rare treat and pleasure – it has become unusual for many of us to be out there with people in the way in which we used to be. This has had many benefits – we probably get more work done, we are more inclusive of those who live and work at a distance and we have managed to maximise participation and engagement in so many diverse ways. But – there is a cost. That cost is one I think we increasingly both individually and collectively need to challenge until we get to a point of healthier balance. The cost is personal interaction, dialogue, and honest communication. Online meetings allow those who organise and chair, those who lead and manage to control what happens, they drive out the directness of eye contact, the positivity of physical presence and the benefit of side exchange and networking. I am convinced in most meetings and group interactions they stunt innovative contribution and creativity. We have- not least in some governmental and statutory circles – reached a stage at which I am very worried about the way in which honest and healthy exchange and debate are being shut down by the dominance of virtual meetings and the absence of physical in-person interaction. It would be unfortunate in the extreme if the benefits of technology ended up leading to a situation of disingenuous exchange and the loss of freedom for speech and robust and honest contribution. I just wonder if that is the direction in so much of our working lives in which we are moving.

Enjoy your tech week.


Donald Macaskill

Leaving No One Behind In An Ageing World: the collective opportunity.

There are times when you might feel the struggles and obstacles you are enduring are unique to your own circumstances and situation. To be honest it sometimes feels like that in the world of social care in Scotland – that our challenges are unique and peculiar. But they are not. And both this week and in the last month it has become even clearer that there is a shared global set of concerns around social care and ageing but equally important a collective international desire and focus to do something about them. My reason for saying so is because of two reports which have been published in the last month.

The first is from the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) which in mid-January published its biennial flagship report that ‘aims to assess the world’s social situation by identifying emerging trends of international concern ‘. The World Social Report 2023 focuses on population ageing and the challenges and opportunities it brings as countries strive to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It is called ‘Leaving No One Behind in an Ageing World,’ and takes its title from the commitment that as the world strives to achieve environmental sustainability that no-one especially the most vulnerable would be left behind. For the purposes of this report, it focuses on older age. It does so by celebrating the reality that we have made huge global strides in advancing health and older age but states quite baldly that there is much still to do to reap the benefit of this ‘demographic dividend.’

The report argues that older persons should be able to continue working for as long as they desire and are able, and it calls for ‘flexible retirement policies with guaranteed universal minimum benefits; eliminating barriers to older people’s participation in the workforce; and supporting learning and skills development throughout the life course.’

But it also advocates for a robust renewal of social care and health supports for our ageing population, stating that:

‘So far, public spending in most countries has not been sufficient to cover the growing demand for long-term care. The average expenditure by countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was 1.5 per cent of GDP in 2019, down from 1.7 per cent in 2017. Insufficient funding means caregivers are undervalued, underpaid, and inadequately trained and often work in difficult conditions. A shortage of well-trained caregivers leads to poor quality care. Many countries, even wealthy ones, continue to rely on informal services by paid or unpaid caregivers.’

The report is well worth a read as it articulates a clear link between the economic success of a country and the degree to which it robustly addresses age discrimination and disadvantage. And when it talks about age discrimination it is explicitly referring to the discrimination against older age which is a global shame.

The second report which has highlighted for me our shared global challenge and potential came out a few days ago. It is entitled ‘Long Term Care: A Call for Action on a Global Scale.’ I know this work much better because I had the privilege over the last year of being part of the international group of writers who contributed to its development. That process and the conversations and discussions that were involved showed me first hand just how many shared concerns and solutions we share with one another across the world.

The paper makes many of the same arguments as the UN report but is primarily focussed on the aged care and social care sector and its condition across the world. It is a direct call to the governments of the world to act to address what is effectively an ageing emergency – one just as significant and challenging as our environmental emergency. It is a call to action to ensure that growing old is something which continues to uphold dignity, human worth and value, that celebrates individual autonomy and choice, and which enshrines the human rights of all regardless of age or capacity.  It states quite clearly that positive ageing does not happen by accident but through a clear strategic focus, prioritisation and planning which values ageing at its heart.

It especially states that we are globally, not just in Scotland, faced with very real challenges in terms of the declining numbers of caregivers and insufficient government support for services for older adults at the very same time as there are more and more older people requiring a greater level of support to remain independent, autonomous and valued. It also calls for a radical re-imagining of how we support people in older age, how we value them and how we provide care and support to those who may require it:

“As the aging population grows, there are too many challenges to keep doing things the way we have been doing them in the past decades. Informal family caregivers, who, in every country worldwide play a fundamental role in ensuring older adults’ well-being, are struggling with exhaustion, deteriorating quality of life, and loss of income that feed into negative macroeconomic impacts. We cannot leave this to families alone,” said Jiri Horecky, president European Ageing Network and board chair, the Global Ageing Network. “As the numbers of older adults grow, governments will have no choice but to invest in the supports older adults need, to give them agency and to protect their rights, including the right to long-term care.”

I consider that this international report is of real significance to those of us who care about older age in Scotland. It shows that many of the challenges we are facing in Scotland are global in nature, but it also suggests that the solutions of a better recognised and rewarded workforce, investment in older age care and support, and the innovative use of a human-rights based use of technology are ones we need to build on in Scotland and elsewhere.

If we are to truly ensure that no-one is left behind, we have to raise our heads from the horizon of our local and national concerns to work internationally on shared responses – this is as true of ageing and its potential as much as it is true of the environment and its challenge. Dozens of governments across the globe were presented with the report on Tuesday and I really do hope that they, ours included, will act on its call.

That is why I am delighted that Glasgow will welcome delegates from around the globe in this coming September to debate, talk, share, campaign, create and become active around the issues of ageing and care and support. The Global Ageing Conference will be taking place in the exact spot where COP26 happened – sustainable care and support for our growing ageing human population is as critical to ensuring a sustainable environment as perhaps any other issue. You can find out more details of this event at

Both these international reports are appearing at a time when increasingly there is an acceptance of the intimate relationship between ageing and the environment, between celebrating and valuing older age and economic sustainability and success of communities and nations. Sadly, I think Scotland has some way to go to recognise older age as full of potential rather than cost. Scotland’s social care system and its very acute and real challenges can learn much from the insights of other places because there is much more that unites than divides our commonality. But wherever we are in the world the future is one where inescapably older people will increasingly find voice and agency, will demand change and innovation, will demonstrate new ways of being old – I very much hope we have the courage to listen to international voices and learn from global insights because those who are ageing will not allow themselves to be left behind.

Donald Macaskill

Dream to be yourself: women and science

Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. As someone who is much more comfortable in the world of arts and literature it may seem an odd theme to reflect upon in my weekly blog. But throughout my life I have come across some amazingly gifted women and girls who have contributed through their careers and writing to the advancement of our scientific knowledge. Yet in virtually each of their stories and careers they have done so despite the barriers and challenges placed in front of them both in terms of attitudes and behaviours, and more explicitly in terms of bias and discrimination. Theirs has without exception been a journey of struggle against the prevalent societal, academic and industry prejudices.

In some senses I belong to a generation where there was an unhealthy presumption when I was at school that science was for the boys and that the arts and other subjects were for the girls.  And I am not that old! This myth of male scientific primacy could not have been more visibly negated than in my own classroom where the girls romped ahead of any male in their environment and to my knowledge at least three of whom went on to do science-based PhDs and have excellent scientific careers. Yet I can still remember a female teacher standing in front of the class and stating without fear of contradiction or embarrassment that “science brains were always ‘male brains because of the way in which we were made”. The pseudo-science of presumption.

Wind on the years and I am sitting in a care home with an older lady who by that stage was in her nineties and bar from some real physical challenges as the result of hip replacement surgery which had not worked as it should have, she was intellectually active and her mind was dynamic and creative. She recounted to me her own experience of frustration with her schooling because despite being the undoubted brightest in a family of three brothers, she never got her chance at pursuing education until she had left school and working all hours and with the support of her young husband, she put herself through university education. She went on to become one of the foremost specialists in her field of immunology. We got to know one another really well but in almost every conversation we had there was both an anger at the barriers she had faced not just at school but in her clinical career simply because she was a woman, and this was combined with a determination that girls and women in the future should not have to endure similar experiences.

Undeniably we have come a long way and there are more women in positions of scientific prominence and as leaders in science and technological industry, but we have considerable distance still to go. The UNESCO and UN-Women led day we celebrate today illustrates the distance to ending such discrimination. It states:

  • Women are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues and, while they represent 33.3% of all researchers, only 12% of members of national science academies are women.
  • In cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence, only one in five professionals (22%) is a woman.
  • Despite a shortage of skills in most of the technological fields driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, women still account for only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics.
  • Female researchers tend to have shorter, less well-paid careers. Their work is underrepresented in high-profile journals, and they are often passed over for promotion.

In order to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, we must recognise the challenges we see all around us.

I have written and spoken a lot about technology and how it impacts the world of social care – I hasten to add from an amateur and non-scientific expert stance! As a result, I attend many science and technology conferences and events and what often strikes me is that without exception so much of the most dynamic, original and humanistic inventions and initiatives originate from the work of female developers and scientists – yet so much leadership, presentation and articulation of these is led by men. What is going on there if not healthcare and social care’s own glass ceiling operating against the creativity and imagination of women? As the UN states women remain a minority in ‘digital information technology, computing, physics, mathematics and engineering. These are the fields that are driving the digital revolution and so, many of the jobs of tomorrow.’

Of all the Nobel laureates awarded in physics, chemistry, physiology and medicine 587 (97%) have been given to men and only 20 to women. That strikes me as the arithmetic of bias rather than the science of sense. It is time for those of us in our own spheres of influence such as social care and health care to ensure we continually address the ongoing discrimination against women and girls in technology and science. If we do so we not only work to right an error but to benefit the whole of society by giving space and voice to creativity, innovation, discovery and insight from those who have so much to give. As my old friend in the care home said to me, she had spent her life “dreaming and working to be herself.”

And what better way to end this blog but with the challenge and creative brilliance of Neil Gaiman and his poem ‘The Mushroom Hunters.’:

“The Mushroom Hunters,”

Science, as you know, my little one, is the study

of the nature and behaviour of the universe.

It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement,

and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.

In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains

designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run,

to hurdle blindly into the unknown,

and then to find their way back home when lost

with a slain antelope to carry between them.

Or, on bad hunting days, nothing.

The women, who did not need to run down prey,

had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them

left at the thorn bush and across the scree

and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,

because sometimes there are mushrooms.

Before the flint club, or flint butcher’s tools,

The first tool of all was a sling for the baby

to keep our hands free

and something to put the berries and the mushrooms in,

the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers.

Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break.

And sometimes men chased the beasts

into the deep woods,

and never came back.

Some mushrooms will kill you,

while some will show you gods

and some will feed the hunger in our bellies. Identify.

Others will kill us if we eat them raw,

and kill us again if we cook them once,

but if we boil them up in spring water, and pour the water away,

and then boil them once more, and pour the water away,

only then can we eat them safely. Observe.

Observe childbirth, measure the swell of bellies and the shape of breasts,

and through experience discover how to bring babies safely into the world.

Observe everything.

And the mushroom hunters walk the ways they walk

and watch the world, and see what they observe.

And some of them would thrive and lick their lips,

While others clutched their stomachs and expired.

So laws are made and handed down on what is safe. Formulate.

The tools we make to build our lives:

our clothes, our food, our path home…

all these things we base on observation,

on experiment, on measurement, on truth.

And science, you remember, is the study

of the nature and behaviour of the universe,

based on observation, experiment, and measurement,

and the formulation of laws to describe these facts.

The race continues. An early scientist

drew beasts upon the walls of caves

to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms

and on berries, what would be safe to hunt.

The men go running on after beasts.

The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill

and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs.

They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,

freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.


Donald Macaskill

Caring about racism: the challenge for social care.

I’ve never been the victim of racism but have sadly witnessed it and its impact all too often over the years. For over a decade I was involved in delivering programmes of learning and development for organisations and their staff on the issues of equality and diversity. With the distance of time, I often reflect on that experience which frequently felt as if I was pushing a boulder up a steep hill. Often when I was delivering a training course the first period of time involved me engaging in what felt like an evangelical argument to convince folks that what they were about to experience was not the latest fad, was not a tick box exercise and was not pandering to ‘political correctness’ whatever that was understood as meaning. In other words, it was important, meaningful and that it mattered just as much as Health and Safety to Child Protection training. On occasion I had to engage in a more robust and strident defence and set of arguments on how understanding the way you relate to people who might be different to you, whose behaviours, beliefs, or attitudes you may disagree with – was a fundamental part of working in a modern public facing service and indeed being a part of contemporary society. Whether it was a training course delivered to the police or social workers, to a charity or private business, the challenge and resistance to race equality training was almost predictable and sadly familiarly frequent.

These memories often come to the surface when I consider annual events like Race Relations Week which this year runs from the 6th to 10th February. It is a week which ‘unites employees, focuses senior leaders and encourages them to continue their activity and drive race equality all year long.’ It aims to be ‘a catalyst for ongoing change’ in order to ‘galvanise and maximise impact through a nationwide collaboration for real change.’

In the world of social care, the dynamics of race are significant and important. On the one hand social care as a sector whether in care home or homecare employs and attracts more people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds as an overall proportion of the workforce than many other sectors in Scotland. On the other hand, the sector has frequently struggled with the issues of racism that beset the rest of the population. That is both in terms of direct service experience for worker and resident/service user and the paucity of distinctive provision for minority groups as a report by Rohini Sharma Joshi for Scottish Care argued just before the pandemic.

When I trained people in equality and diversity starting three decades ago, I often used to say that over time the knee-jerk resistance to learning about race or disability, sexual orientation or belief would change naturally and progressively – I really believed that as people encountered difference more often, as fears were allayed, as generations changed then behaviour and attitudes would become more inclusive, non-discriminatory, and mature.

I disappointingly must admit that such optimism was misplaced because sadly I feel the challenge of racism is in some senses as acute in some parts of Scotland today as it has been in the past. It is undeniably true that incidents of overt race hate have become less common, that people who are victims have marginally become more confident in reporting, that previously accepted societal and group racist behaviours and so-called humour are now more likely to be challenged or whispered – and yet there is almost now a subtle underground pervasiveness of outdated attitudes to ethnicity even amongst the young. Racism has become more subtle and calculating but no less dangerous and damaging. And at the same time as I think racism has become more hidden in plain sight the focus of learning, development and challenge has become less critical and much less well-resourced and prioritised by both organisations and government.

That is not to deny or ignore for instance that there have been some good pieces of research and reports in the recent past exploring the disproportionately negative experiences of the Covid pandemic upon the BAME population as a whole and upon health and social care staff in particular. This work should be welcomed advocating as it does for politicians, policy makers, organisations, and leaders to address the inequity of treatment, discrimination in resource allocation and bias within organisations and systems. But I think as well as tackling endemic racism at that macro level as individuals and communities we need to do a whole lot more in terms of personal attitudes and behaviours.

The recent well publicised experience of the acting colleagues of the Scottish actor James McAvoy who experienced direct racism in the streets of Glasgow should shame anyone who cares about that city and its reputation. But the sad truth is – no matter how many carpets we choose to brush reality under – that there are daily experiences of direct racist incidents being perpetrated upon both Scots of long lineage and more recent arrivals every day.

I spoke to a social care provider in the west of Scotland just a few weeks ago – they had successfully recruited staff from Africa and had supported their arrival and transition really well. Yet these young women and men recounted tale upon tale of negative experience – at the hands of the public – bananas thrown at one person on the bus; at the hands of service users – someone point blankly refusing to be supported and cared for by a ‘black woman’ and even incidents where colleagues had ignored or demeaned them. Despite all the support and the best endeavours of managers and supervisors this new workforce were now reporting to peers back home the reality of not being welcomed.

I’ve equally lost count of the number of workers in both clinical and care settings who have recounted to me incidents of subtle and significant racist behaviour both at the hands of patients or residents and from peers and colleagues.

We need to call out racism wherever it exists and to challenge the perfidious nature of it at the hands of those who care and in environments where people should be having their humanity affirmed not demeaned.

It is simply not acceptable to say things are better than they were because they are still not as they should be. As a society as we rightly seek to address and challenge other inequities and disadvantages let us in the week ahead also continue to renew our efforts to challenge hatred and discrimination on the grounds of race and ethnicity. The job is only half done. It is time to care about racism.

The amazing Jackie Kay one of the greatest living poets in Scotland at the current time brilliantly captures the reality of racism in Scotland in her poem, ‘In My Country.’

walking by the waters,

down where an honest river

shakes hands with the sea,

a woman passed round me

in a slow, watchful circle,

as if I were a superstition;

or the worst dregs of her imagination,

so when she finally spoke her words spliced into bars

of an old wheel. A segment of air.

Where do you come from?

‘Here,’ I said, ‘Here. These parts.’

Printed in Scotland’s Makar Jackie Kay: This is still my country, but it needs to change – The Sunday Post


Donald Macaskill.


Time to talk and listen: Scotland’s older persons mental health silence.

Thursday coming is Time to Talk Day which offers an opportunity for people, organisations and communities to take time out to discuss mental health and to support each other.

The event takes place annually and is organised by a range of mental health organisations and charities across the United Kingdom making it one of the biggest mental health conversations.

Despite all the progress we have made as a society there is still a very real sense of stigma for some around mental health and so a day like Time to Talk carries a huge significance. You can find out more about the day and access resources via the Time to Talk website.

We all know that being encouraged to be open about how you are feeling, to talk about your health and well-being as it relates to your thoughts, feelings and emotions is extremely important. Therefore, creating spaces and places where folks can do so, facilitating an atmosphere where people will be valued and heard when they open up and share, fostering an attentiveness and appreciation amongst family, friends and community is essential.

Yet there are some for whom there are additional challenges who I think we need to increase our collective efforts to support. I’m thinking today of one group of people in particular- older people.

If there remains a societal taboo or discomfort around mental health in general, I think that is accentuated for older people. It is certainly the case that older people talk less openly about their mental health and well-being. Indeed, when I reflect on people of my parents’ generation, brought up as they were in a Hebridean and island culture, the very idea of talking about -even demonstrating – emotions, feelings and mental health seems anathema. They were a generation in large part – and I think this is evidenced in years of research – who were denied the emotional vocabulary and skills to both understand their mental health and to be able to communicate around thoughts and feelings. In no small part my own generation are the inheritors of attitudes and behaviours to mental health which have been hugely damaging and crippling of our own mental well-being.

Someone in their eighties who uses social care services and who is immensely articulate and astute on many issues of politics and on policy affecting social care was in touch with me over the last month or so about the state of social care. As we chatted and conversed not least about their own financial struggles in dealing with soaring energy costs as someone living on a fixed pension income – he began to share more of his own story with me. It became clear to me that here was an individual who was struggling with depression, very low moods and at times suicidal thoughts. But he was starting to talk and open up for the first time in a long time. It has taken immense courage and will on his part to do something about it and to seek professional support – but it all started with him talking and with a conversation however tangential to the issues which were really hurting him. But shamefully one of the very real challenges for his listener was to be able to signpost him too or direct him to someone or a group who were able to help him. Had he been under 25 I would not have had the same challenge even if waiting times might have been obscene.

Perhaps because of the pressures of the time I missed an excellent short report which came out a couple of months ago in November 2022. It is entitled ‘Older adults’ mental health before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence paper.’ Whilst the title might not grab it is a very insightful description of older person mental health challenges – which also serves to illustrate the paucity of similar exploration in this field. I’m less concerned with the focus on Covid though that is not unimportant but what struck me most was some of the analysis and key findings. Its conclusions are very similar to a report written in 2017 long before Covid. In it countless frontline carers were interviewed and told both myself and other researchers about the hidden hurt of unaddressed mental health issues amongst those older people receiving social care in the community and in care homes. That report was called ‘Fragile Foundations: Exploring the mental health of the social care workforce and the people they support.’

Five years later in 2022 the latest report articulating as it does so many of the same messages highlights not only the shameful absence of research and studies on this population group but also the lack of any tangible progress or ability to learn lessons. It’s almost as if older age mental health matters less than the mental health struggles of others. As it states:

‘There is currently a lack of evidence relating to older adults’ mental health, particularly relating to LGBTI identities, ethnic and religious backgrounds, caring responsibilities and finances and deprivation. There is also little evidence specifically concerning non-statutory mental health services.’

There is a glaring gap in the mental health provision for older Scots and this is wholly unacceptable and damaging. We need to be much more proactive as a society in not only encouraging people regardless of age to talk openly about their mental health but to have avenues and supports to take those conversations should it be necessary.

For too long we have I think deluded ourselves – in part because of a lack of transparent evidence to the contrary in assuming that there are not significant mental health challenges amongst older people. As the latest report states:

‘Older adults appear to report better mental health outcomes than younger adults; however, this might reflect that they are less likely to report poor mental health, particularly due to more stigmatising views of mental health amongst older people and reliance on self-reported data. Findings also indicate that age-related stigma affects older adults in various ways, such as how they are treated in mental health services and how they engage with these services (e.g., not accessing services due to not wanting to be a burden).’

There is also a joint articulation in the report five years ago and the latest one when it warns us that we should avoid viewing older adults as a homogenous group and that there are very real differences in mental well-being between older adults of different ages (e.g., 65-69 and 75+) as well as in gender and whether they lived alone or not. It also underlined the critical importance of avoiding the pitfall of assuming that all older age mental health was about dementia or delirium:

‘A clear distinction should be made between dementia and mental health, particularly in older adulthood. Evidence indicates that an older adults’ mental health issues might be neglected if they are diagnosed with dementia. Mixed wards (i.e., patients with dementia, mental health issues or both) are viewed as detrimental for older adults with mental health issues. Without making a clear distinction between these, a clearer understanding of each is impeded.’

To put it mildly it is disappointing in the extreme that so little has changed in older person mental health provision in Scotland in this period of time including as the latest report states ‘including the varied approach to older adults transitioning from adult to older adult services and the low availability and quality of services.’

Talking as an older person or indeed at any age finding the courage to talk about mental health is not easy the least society and our political leadership can do is to listen with sufficient depth so that we create supports and services that can respond to mental health issues regardless of age.

The young Punjab born Canadian poet Rupi Kaur puts the balance of commitment well in an unnamed poem. From her book The Sun and Her Flowers:

when the world comes crashing at your feet

it’s okay to let others

help pick up the pieces

if we’re present to take part in your happiness

when your circumstances are great

we are more than capable

of sharing your pain

Donald Macaskill