The report from Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission joins a long line of similar pieces of analysis from representative bodies like Scottish Care and others such as the Feeley Report. They are wholly accurate.
The way that Scotland plans, buys, and contracts social care is not only inadequate for the delivery of quality, person-led and human rights dignified care but creates real unsustainability and risk. This has a profound and frankly shameful effect on the ability of the sector to reward and value the frontline care workforce, not least in our inabilities to trust their skilled professionalism through the way in which they are monitored and regulated. It also fails to meet the very real needs of family and unpaid carers and continues to pay lip-service to their real and proper inclusion and involvement in choosing and selecting the services and supports they need.
Scotland’s social care system contributes more to the Scottish economy than agriculture, forestry and fishing, as well as enabling individuals to lead purposeful and contributive lives. There is a real potential to change. We urgently need inclusive leadership to act upon this report. As the report comments we cannot wait for the promised land of the National Care Service because there will be disintegration and collapse long before that. The social care sector in Scotland is in crisis now to a degree few of us have ever experienced.
The report is absolutely right in saying that the Scottish Government must work with its partners in addressing issues now as a matter of urgency. To do that means listening to, talking with, respecting, and valuing the voice and contribution of the employers and organisations who provide social care. This is singularly lacking in large measure. Instead of only engaging and asking those who contract and pay for services at local authority and partnership levels, we all need to start listening to those who deliver and who use those supports. Radical change and transformation require everyone to be at the table, not treating employers and care organisations as an afterthought and keeping them outside the door whilst the ‘grown-ups’ talk. Continued lack of engagement with social care employers will lead us to the bizarre situation where there are better terms and conditions for employees, but no organisations left to employ them to deliver that fundamental role of care and support.
The pandemic has undoubtedly made matters worse and has led many care organisations to the brink of survival. We regularly hear of the real impact this has on the people who need that care and support and their unpaid carers. This requires systematic response and requires real involvement of care employers and representative bodies, otherwise all we are doing is papering of the cracks as the building collapses around us.
The Social Care Briefing report from Audit Scotland is available here: https://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/report/social-care-briefing