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

Care Inspectorate Webinar – 23 March

We are delighted to welcome colleagues from the Care Inspectorate to our next webinar on Thursday 23 March 2023 at 2:00 pm. Mike Andrews,  Service Manager and George McMillian, Team Manager from the Care Inspectorate will be hosting this session.

The Care Inspectorate will discuss using the Quality Frameworks including Key Questions and Quality Indicators for Inspections in 2023/24.  They will further discuss what to expect at an inspection and there will be an opportunity to ask questions.

This session will help you be aware of focus for inspections next year.

Please note that this webinar is on Microsoft Teams instead of Zoom. Registration is required, you will be sent an email invite a day before the session.

Please register via the Members Area.

IRISR Engagement Session – 15 March

The Chair of the Independent Review of Inspection Scrutiny & Regulation (IRISR), Dame Sue Bruce and the Vice Chair, Stuart Currie are hosting a bespoke engagement session for Scottish Care Members. This is scheduled for this Wednesday 15 March, between 1:00 – 2:00 pm.

The Chair and Vice Chair would like to use the session as an opportunity to allow members to share any pertinent information regarding inspection, regulation and scrutiny of social care services.

Please see below for the themes and questions from the stakeholder engagement sessions.

This engagement session will be held on Teams, please register via the  Members Area.

Stakeholder Engagement Themes and Questions

Easy Read – Stakeholder Engagement Themes and Questions

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

Care at Home & Housing Support Awards 2023 – Deadline Extended!

We have extended the deadline for making a nomination to our annual Care at Home & Housing Support Awards to Friday 17 March 2023.

Nominations need to be completed by this date by close of play. If you haven’t already done so, please take a look at the guidelines and categories to help us celebrate and acknowledge the exceptional skills and commitment of those working in the homecare sector across Scotland.

There are 10 award categories covering organisations, staff and service users:

  • Emerging Talent Award
  • Care Services Coordination/Administration Award
  • Care Learning Award
  • Leadership Award
  • Outstanding Achievement Award
  • Care Worker of the Year
  • Palliative & End of Life Care Practise Award
  • Technology & People Award
  • Provider of the Year
  • Positive Impact Award

Please ensure you read the guidelines before completing your nomination, any submissions that do not follow the guidelines may not be accepted by the judges.

Judging of the awards will be later in March and the Awards Ceremony will be held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow following the Conference on Friday 19 May 2023.

Find out more and enter here.

Care at Home & Housing Support Conference 2023 – Early bird tickets now available!

We are delighted to announce that early bird tickets for the Scottish Care 2023 National Homecare Conference & Exhibition are now available until the close of play on 31 March 2023!

Early bird tickets for members are priced at £60+VAT, instead of the standard ticket rates of £70+VAT. Early bird rates for non-members are priced at £105+VAT, and standard non-member rates are £130+VAT.

Join us for this conference on Friday 19 May 2023 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Argyll Street, Glasgow.

The conference will address key themes including the future of care and ageing, and effective voice. It will also tackle practical challenges facing the sector including the cost of living crisis, sustainability and the future of homecare regulation.

Be part of this unmissable event at such a critical time and book your tickets now. We look forward to welcoming delegates to this conference.

Find out more and book your tickets here.

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

Media Release – Long Term Care: A Call for Action on a Global Scale

 Long Term Care: A Call for Action on a Global Scale

 Critical Issues in Countries Worldwide – Rapidly Aging Global Population, Shrinking Number of Informal Caregivers, and Strained Long-Term Care Systems – Spur Need for New Approach, Say Global Ageing Network Leaders 

Scottish Care, a Global Ageing Network member, Urges Action in Scotland

Tuesday 14 February, 2023, Scotland and Washington, DC – The impact of issues arising from aging populations in countries around the globe, combined with declining numbers of caregivers and  insufficient government support for services older adults need to live with dignity and respect, demands attention, warns a new report from the Global Ageing Network (GAN), an international network of leaders in ageing services, housing, research, technology and design from more than 60 countries.

Action by governments all over the world is needed now, say the report authors, all experts in long term care. The demographics of global aging are driving a need for attention to and prioritization of policies, programs, and infrastructure to ensure access to care and services. Issues including approach to care, funding, workforce development and training, need to be addressed.

In GAN’s “Call to Governments: Ageing and Long-Term Care,” to be released February 14, 2023, authors Jiri Horecky, president of the Association of Social Services, in the Czech Republic, and board chair, GAN; Stuart Kaplan, CEO, Selfhelp Community Services in New York, NY; Dan Levitt, professor and CEO, KinVillage, Delta, British Columbia, Canada; Katie Smith Sloan, executive director, Global Ageing Network; Megan Davies, PhD, University of Basel and Maastricht University; Dr. Freek Lapre, professor, TIAS Business School, Tilburg University, Netherlands; and Donald Macaskill, PhD, CEO, Scottish Care, lay out shared challenges and opportunities facing countries around the globe as populations grow older and people live longer, with at least half of all older adults expected to need of some long-term care services for a period at some point in their lives.

“It’s time to step up. Although the starting point is different for each country, every leader around the globe must address the issue of ensuring that older adults can access the care and services needed to age well,” said Katie Smith Sloan, Executive Director, GAN. “The numbers tell the story: By 2050, one in six people in the world are projected to be age 65 or older. We’ve laid out the issues that must be addressed, the needs of older adults that must be met, and offers a road map of high-level policy actions to consider.”

The impact of COVID-19 on older adults around the globe, and abundant lessons that became apparent from that experience, such as the negative effects of longstanding neglect of infrastructure needed to serve older adults as they age, served as the impetus for GAN’s action, Sloan explains. “Chronic underfunding, understaffing, low prioritization of aging services by governments around the globe revealed how urgently the long-term care sector does need attention, reforms, changes, and support. The sector’s been overlooked and underappreciated – and the collective work of GAN members is needed, now more than ever.”

“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.”

Dr Donald Macaskill, CEO of Scottish Care added: “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.”

Following an overview of long-term care practices in countries around the world, the paper addresses major challenges, from an overreliance on informal caregivers, the growing challenge of dementia onset among older adults and workforce challenges to long-term care infrastructure and policy needs. A roadmap of opportunities, challenges and action are as follows, including sustainable funding models, reshaping long-term care systems; and country-specific needs assessments.

About Global Aging Network

The Global Ageing Network advances ideas and solutions to address global ageing. Through its presence in over 60 countries, the Network serves as a platform for the exchange of best practices, innovations, barriers, and solutions to ensure that all older adults – regardless of geography or circumstance – can age with dignity and respect. This collective purpose, shared among providers, businesses, researchers, advocates, and others, is a powerful force in addressing the many challenges and opportunities associated with global ageing.

Read the Call to Governments – Ageing and Long Term Care Paper here.