Scottish Modern Slavery Roundtable: Resources Available

Scottish Care, in partnership with Scotland Against Modern Slavery (SAMS), successfully hosted the Scottish Modern Slavery Roundtable on 26 October. This significant event brought together experts and stakeholders to discuss vital issues surrounding modern slavery.

We are delighted to announce that the recording of this insightful session is now accessible to the public. The recording can be viewed via the following link: Recording Link.

In addition to the video, we are sharing the presentation slides from key contributors:

We extend our sincere thanks to everyone who engaged in this crucial discussion. Your active participation contributed significantly to the depth and diversity of perspectives explored during the event.

Job Opportunity: Independent Sector Career & Attraction Lead (Care Homes) – North Highland

North Highland

Independent Sector Care Home Career Attraction Lead



Health and Social Care Integration  

£48,120 per annum

Fixed term contract funded until April 2025

Home Based with Significant travel across North Highland

Open to secondment

Do you have an interest in improving the quality of care, can you COLLABORATE, INNOVATE AND COMMUNICATE, and would you like to join a successful, committed and highly motivated team? This could be the opportunity you have been waiting for.

We are seeking to engage an Independent Sector Care Home, Career Attraction Lead.

To support the Integration of Health and Social Care in North Highland, to promote the benefits of working in Independent Sector Care Home provision and to specifically attract more potential employees to work in this highly rewarding sector.

We are recruiting to the above post which will work across North Highland with a key focus on the recruitment and retention of our most valuable assets.

You will connect with potential care home recruits through innovative means, harnessing technology, and social media to convey the many positive benefits of a care home career and engage with relevant stakeholders to develop effective mechanisms to promote and channel this interest.

Hosted by Scottish Care and working closely with the current Independent Sector Leads, Care providers and Partners, the post involves ensuring sector involvement in the delivery of the integrating of health and social care in Scotland’s HSCPs.

The post holder must be highly motivated, passionate about care home service delivery, be able to use initiative, influence, possess excellent communication and networking skills, along with excellent IT and social media understanding and use and be able to report on outcomes and impact at a strategic level.

Qualifications and recent experience of working in the care home sector at a management level would be a significant advantage, as would care sector recruitment experience, although this is not essential for the right candidate.

The post holder will be expected to create and support significant collaborations across the independent care sector whilst contributing to the development of new pathways which will result in the delivery of improved outcomes for people who access care and support. The post holder will ensure the Independent Sector’s contribution is fundamental to integrated services and transformational change and be able to evidence their impact. The role requires considerable and skilful collaboration with our key partners in the NHS, Local Authority, Carers, third sector organisations and other forums.

North Highland is a progressive partnership and invests heavily in this post and the Independent Sector.

The successful candidate will be required to spend a significant amount of time in the North Highland area. 

The post is home based with significant travel and is hosted by Scottish Care. Flexible working is available.

You can find the application pack below or request one by contacting Tracy Doyle at Scottish Care by email [email protected].  To discuss this post please contact Jim Carle by email [email protected].

Closing date 12pm on Friday 17th of November 2023.  Interviews will be held in person – Tuesday the 28th of November 2023 (to be confirmed). 

Application Pack

Download Role Specification

Download Application Form

Download Equality Monitoring Form

Joint statement: Scottish Government’s Winter Plan ‘offers no hope for social care’

As the CEOs of Scotland’s two major umbrella bodies representing providers of care and support in the third and independent sectors we are dismayed to see yet another Winter Plan which purports to be a whole system response for Scottish citizens but in fact offers almost no hope for social care.

Both of our organisations have attempted to convince both the Scottish Government and CoSLA that the plan was wholly insufficient to address the deep crisis facing our members and a system that is meant to uphold the rights of individuals who require care and support.

We have tried to be constructive in those discussions to which we have been invited, but have certainly not been engaged in any way as equal partners in finding solutions for a system in which our members deliver key public services for some of our country’s most vulnerable individuals and families. This document reflects that. The marginal changes made to an early draft following our strong criticisms do not allay the fundamental concerns we shared.

In particular, we note a deeply disturbing direction for social care providers and, ultimately, for those who rely on services to maintain independence and connection and prevent crisis:

Where necessary, local systems will prioritise social care and support services for those who need it most and are considered to be at a critical or substantial risk level.

In the current climate, where we already see social care budgets being depressed to the detriment of people and, indeed the wider system, we fear this will be read as carte blanche to remove or reduce funding for many people who need support. This cannot be allowed to happen.

We hope that the Cabinet Secretary and CoSLA leaders will clarify their intentions in including this statement and do significantly more to underline their commitment to a thriving social care system for which they wish to share accountability through a National Care Service.

Rachel Cackett, CEO, CCPS, and Dr Donald Macaskill, CEO, Scottish Care

News Release: A Scotland That Cares – survey results & new briefing

Major surge in people who think care work is under-valued in Scotland, with majority saying nothing has changed for carers since pandemic

New data also suggests 1 in 3 Scots have caring responsibilities

The Scottish Government is being challenged to make a ‘transformative and world leading commitment to all carers’, as new polling reveals the overwhelming belief of people across Scotland that carers of all kinds are undervalued.

The poll, carried out by YouGov on behalf of the A Scotland That Cares campaign, shows that a staggering one in three adults (30%) in Scotland have caring responsibilities*; with respondents saying they are a parent (15%) or look after a child informally (7%), are an unpaid carer for someone who is ill, disabled or elderly (7%), or are employed in a paid caring role (2%).

While caring is widespread, the data exposes that nearly three quarters (74%) of adults in Scotland believe that care work is not valued highly enough by the Scottish Government.

This figure represents a significant jump since the peak of the pandemic in 2020, when 62% of Scottish adults said they didn’t think care work was valued highly enough by the Scottish Government.

The polling also reveals the majority of people don’t think that the increased attention on the role of carers during the pandemic resulted in any additional practical support for paid carers (57%), unpaid carers (61%) or parents (55%).

The A Scotland That Cares campaign, which is backed by over 60 organisations including frontline organisations representing unpaid carers, parents and paid care workers as well as prominent anti-poverty charities and think tanks, is calling on the Scottish Government to urgently address the public’s concerns and the deep undervaluation of the nation’s carers.

Becky Duff, Director of Carers Trust Scotland, said: “The pandemic shone an unblinking spotlight on how essential the roles of unpaid carers and paid care workers are for holding society together. We are incredibly disappointed that despite this increased attention, most people believe that nothing has really changed for carers. People across Scotland are even more concerned now than they were during the pandemic about how valued carers are, including by Scottish Government. These findings send a clear message: the scale of action needs to go further, faster by putting carers at the heart of Scottish Government’s plans for Scotland’s future.”

Alongside immediately accelerating and deepening action to boost support for all those with caring responsibilities, campaigners say the Scottish Government must lock-in a commitment to transformative change. They say the current review of its ‘National Outcomes’ – the goals which it says describe ‘the kind of Scotland’ it wishes to create – provides Ministers with a golden opportunity to demonstrate its support for carers.

The Scottish Government has 11 existing National Outcomes, including on health, poverty, the environment and education. Progress on each Outcome is measured by a number of indicators, and the Outcomes are intended to drive policy and spending decision-making.

However, there is no dedicated National Outcome on care: a glaring omission which campaigners believe should be addressed when Scottish Ministers lay draft new National Outcomes before Parliament in the coming months.

Carmen Martinez, Coordinator of the Scottish Women’s Budget Group, said: “Most of us will know someone who does care work – whether paid or unpaid – or even be one ourselves, with women being much more likely to be carers than men. But all of us will need to be cared for at some point in our lives. Yet, although caring is crucial to us all, it is chronically undervalued; it’s very telling that carers don’t even feature in the Scottish Government’s existing vision for the country. It’s time for Ministers to right that wrong, by creating a new, robust National Outcome on care to drive the actions needed to fully value and invest in care and all those who provide it.”

The new polling demonstrates strong public support for a new National Outcome on care, with nearly two-thirds (64%) of adults in Scotland saying they back it.

Campaigners say that while creating a National Outcome on care wouldn’t be a silver bullet to address the multiple issues faced by different types of carers, it would provide a strong focus for new, and sustained, policy and spending action at national and local levels.

The A Scotland That Cares campaign says it must be accompanied by robust and cross-cutting National Indicators, to measure progress meaningfully and transparently, including to ensure carers have the practical and financial support they need.

If implemented, Scotland would become one of the first countries in the world to make such an explicit commitment to driving and transparently measuring progress on how care is valued.

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “Care matters deeply to us all. Scotland’s communities and economy is underpinned by the invisible yet invaluable efforts of people who look after others, too many of whom face significant personal impacts, including poverty. Yet politicians’ warm words and pandemic plaudits haven’t been and will never be enough. The Scottish Government has a golden opportunity to make a transformative and world leading commitment to carers by placing them at the heart of its vision for the country through the creation of a new National Outcome on care; it must take it.”


For more information please contact: Rebecca Lozza, Oxfam Media and Communications Adviser, Scotland and Wales: [email protected] / 07917738450  

Notes to Editors

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,012 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th – 10th October 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in Scotland (aged 18+).
  • *Please note this was a multiple-choice question, so some respondents may have selected more than one answer.
  • Find out more about the A Scotland That Cares campaign here:
  • The explainer briefing ‘Invaluable but Invisible’ is available here

Knotted words : stammering love. A reflection

I’ve been spending the last few days in Skye where as many of you know my family originally came from and where I still have close relatives. It is always good to return ‘home’ and to catch up with folks, explore parts I do not know and get on with some tasks. It is an escape from my world of work into a place that simply possesses another rhythm and pattern of living to anywhere else I know. In October the seasons meld into one another on Skye but this time despite the robust winds the weather has been glorious, and I have rarely seen the place look more beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Yesterday with other members of my family I spent some time re-painting the lettering on a family gravestone. Might seem an odd activity but it was both rewarding and humbling to spend time in making sure that the names and memories of my kin would be visible despite the Atlantic gales which sweep that part of north-west Skye. It was good to share stories, learn new things and be together. One of the people whose name I repainted on stone was my uncle Donald who sadly died in his forties now some forty years ago.

Donald was my mother’s only sibling which in itself was an unusual fact in a Hebridean family pre the Second World War. His birth was difficult, and it resulted in him developing some learning disabilities which included a stammer and stutter that more pronounced the more anxious he was. But I absolutely loved Donald as a child and adolescent and very much regret the fact he died when I was in my late teens. His instinctive knowledge of nature, of animals and the seasons was far more important and impressive to me than the fact he struggled to read and could barely write. His influence on me was marked not least in that I became aware through the time I spent with him how much he was the victim of bullying and harassment because of his disabilities and especially his stutter. Although at times he found communication difficult what was certainly the case was that with patience and interest anyone could communicate with him and vice-versa. Sadly, not all people showed him such patience. Far from it. He had a manual job and one of his foremen made his life a simple hell with constant mimicking of his speech and other behaviours which today would have resulted in dismissal. But not then. The truth was that though Donald tried to hide his upset I knew how much it hurt him to be the victim of such belittling inhumanity and to be continually the object of another’s derision and amusement.

I thought a lot yesterday about how hard his life was as I re-painted his name on his gravestone. So, it was with some sense of synchronicity that in searching as I often do for what is happening in terms of the global calendar of events and occasions that I found out that tomorrow is Stuttering Awareness Day.

Organisations like the Scottish Stammering Network use the day to raise awareness of stammering and also to challenge and address some of the stereotypes and presumptions which exist around this remarkably common condition. They and other groups are well worth exploring not least if you are involved in the world of social care and support where many individuals who receive services and support in their own home or in a residential home live with stuttering or stammering.

Stuttering or stammering is a disruption in speech pattern involving disruptions, or dysfluencies, in a person’s speech, but there are nearly as many ways to stutter as there are people who stutter. Yet like so many conditions it is often misunderstood. It is now widely recognised that stuttering is a neurological condition which impacts and influences the production of speech and the use of language. But as with my uncle so many presumptions are made about people who stutter, and they are often the victims of discrimination and inappropriate treatment. In addition, the impact of such behaviours upon the self-esteem and self-value of those who live with stuttering can often be very negative indeed.

In exploring a world, I knew so little about I discovered that there are many myths and misunderstandings around stuttering, including amongst other things that:

‘Because fluent speakers occasionally become more disfluent when they are nervous or under stress, some people assume that people who stutter do so for the same reason. While people who stutter may be nervous because they stutter, nervousness is not the cause.

Emotional factors often accompany stuttering but it is not primarily a psychological condition. Stuttering treatment/therapy often includes counselling to help people who stutter deal with attitudes and fears that may be the result of stuttering.

Adults and children who stutter may sometimes be hesitant to speak up, even if they are not otherwise shy by nature. People who stutter can be assertive and outspoken, and many succeed in leadership positions that require talking.

Although the manner in which people stutter may develop in certain patterns, the cause of stuttering itself is not due to a habit. Because stuttering is a neurological condition, many, if not most, people who stutter as older children or adults will continue to do so—in some fashion—even when they work very hard at changing their speech.’ (see About The NSA – National Stuttering Association (

It is estimated that perhaps one per cent of the total global population stutter but that perhaps as many as 5% of all children go through a period where they stutter. It is also generally accepted that stuttering is more common among males than females. In adults, the male-to-female ratio is about 4 to 1; in children, it is closer to 2 to 1.

In other words, these are remarkably common phenomena. It is therefore really important that appropriate support and resource is identified to addressing the issues of those who stutter or stammer.

I leave you with a poem written by Natasha Foster called ‘Lighting Candles’ . Natasha wrote of the poem:

“Sometimes I have felt that my stammer stole the words from my mouth, but in writing, I can express things as I want to. There are losses and gains connected to having a stammer, and I tried to reflect that in my poem.

‘I called my poem ‘Lighting candles’ because when I’m open about my stammer, and share my experiences, I like to imagine lighting a small candle of awareness in others. I find motivated to think of increased ‘light’ being shed on the subject, and how this might help me, and others like me, who stammer.”


Knotted words

Angry Heart

Shame and pain

A faltering start

A sense of grief

At a life a bit bashed

By a loss of speech

Some opportunities dashed

My stammer is my uneasy friend

One that will probably stay till the end

City Lit, Stamma, and my fellow peers who know

Helped me change my thinking, learn and grow

I’m working on being a woman of pride

My stammer lives within me, part of me,

By my side

I’m free to speak with a stammer

And share who I am

My person, my experience, my spirit, I can!

Unknotted words

Thankful heart

Self acceptance and hope

Every day is a new start.

(Taken from Poem: ‘Lighting candles’ | STAMMA)

Donald Macaskill

Before the dawn: anticipating loss.

In just under a month on the 1st November the working group which published Scotland’s Bereavement Charter for Adults and Children will be holding a webinar entitled ‘The Space Between: understanding anticipatory grief.’ You can sign up for it and get more details here. On the day we will hear from invited speakers who will reflect on the loss of a parent, the loss of a child and sibling, and the loss of a loved one who you have cared for. The day will also see the publication of the refreshed and updated version of the Charter Guidance document which contains advice and guidance on grief and bereavement. At this time there will be a new section focussing on anticipatory grief.

The phrase might seem a bit strange or alien to those who are not part of the bereavement and grief support world. Sadly, however I suspect the experience of anticipating grief will be all too familiar to many of us.

Anticipatory grief is variously described but in essence it is the grief which starts before someone dies. It is a grief which is often not talked about and sometimes people can be made to feel guilty if they talk about the loss of someone who they know is going to die. So, they shut up and dismiss their feelings. Yet for many of us who have known a loved one who receives a terminal diagnosis like cancer or who has been diagnosed with a condition such as dementia, the grieving can start there and then. It can be terrifyingly immediate and overwhelming. All the lost dreams and possibilities, all the dashed hopes and aspirations, all the places unvisited and the plans unfulfilled. Knowing that someone you love and care about is going to die is a waiting which paralyses the soul and empties you of the few tears you may have left.

My twin brother died from cancer close to 6 years ago and it has taken until now for me to mention that truth in this weekly blog despite all the writing and speaking I undertake on grief and loss. Many twins reading this will recognise that there is often a connection between twins which you feel to be unique and special. It might not always be easy, and distance and the passing years might lessen it, but growing up so inter-connected with another person from the first moments of life onwards can make the sense of grief all the sharper and more painful. And in truth having spoken to a few twins it is a grief that is rarely talked about or shared.

After my twin’s death one of the most challenging series of statements I had to deal with came from those who said things like ‘it was good you had time to prepare’; ‘at least it wasn’t a sudden death’ or ‘you’ll be content that he is at peace now.’ There is a grain and a morsel of truth in some of those sentiments, but their uttering is a dagger to the heart. I know I am not the only person who has heard such words. So many people today will have recently experienced the death of a loved one who they knew was going to die … but we always hold onto the hope, the dream that they would have more time, that there would be more space to make memory and build togetherness… and yet it was not to be. There is no peace in waiting for hurt.

Waiting for someone who means so much to you to die does not prepare you it exhausts you. Waiting for death to come does not make the emptiness of absence any easier it makes it feel even more hollow. Waiting for death does not make the sheer sorrow of the moment any less raw and real.

Years of working and being amongst the dying and the grieving has taught me how little I know about living and dying. But one lesson whose truth I sense as authentic is that grief is not a moment but a series of memories; it is not a task to be undertaken and fulfilled, but a work to be struggled with for what seems forever. It is a journey whose destination is unknown and whose completion is ever in the future.

Maybe that is what those who are anticipating grief and those who are living through it share. A sense that we are changed because of the love we feel for another here and yet absent, present and gone. For they have riven us through with their loving and we are moulded into who we are by our knowing of them.

As for my twin, I think about him every day – like so many bereaved I hear his voice, sense his presence and catch myself wanting to talk to him; I hear his laughter and his passion; I want to pick up the phone and tell him my news or just hear his voice again. To just have another minute to say what was left unsaid and to say a proper goodbye knowing in truth that I could never finish the sentence of love in any time of minutes and hours. Even as I write this, I can feel the shiver inside my body. Grief sits with me, and I have grown used to her presence, but it is one that continually empties me of energy. So, no I cannot accept the experience of some that knowing about the inevitability of death, that anticipating it, prepares you for the reality.

As many of you know I find solace and escape in the reading of poems. Sometimes I find myself coming across esoteric and rare poems. One such which I recently discovered was in a famous group of poems in the tenth-century manuscript known as the Exeter Book. They are stunningly moving medieval reflections on isolation, loss and grief. One of the most famous is called (in a modern translation) The Wife’s Lament, and speaks of the loneliness felt in summer day, a loneliness brought about by isolation and grief. It introduces to the reader a word ‘uhtcearu, a compound which means ‘pre-dawn-sorrow’, ‘grief at early morning’. In Old English uht is the name for the last part of the night, the empty chilly hours just before the dawn, and so a particularly painful time for grief and loneliness.’

I resonate so much with that sense of uhtcearu because for me at least it is in the last hours of night, when the world is still and strangely silent, that loss feels more intense and memory of those not with me seems to settle in beside me, both to soothe and in love to call me into another day. As we anticipate the dawning of the day we move our grieving heart to face the light of another absent day and we know the task of living through memory is to mould our lost love into a new beginning, however hard, every day. But the morning only comes if we allow the uhtcearu.

Donald Macaskill

Dr Eleanor Parker from Oxford University has written a brilliant piece on the Wife’s Lament. See The Wife’s Lament. A Medieval Poem about Isolation | TORCH | The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities

Photo by Abbas Tehrani on Unsplash

Finalists Revealed for the 2023 Care Home Awards!

We are thrilled to share that the finalists for the 2023 Care Home Awards have been chosen! This year, we were inundated with a record-breaking number of entries, all of exceptional quality. The high standard of submissions made the judging process incredibly challenging, showcasing the outstanding work and dedication within our community. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who entered the awards, and congratulations to our finalists!

The anticipation continues to build as we prepare for the grand reveal of the winners at our Awards Ceremony. This special evening, set to be hosted by Michelle McManus, alongside Scottish Care CEO, Dr. Donald Macaskill, promises to be a celebration of excellence.

Event Details:

Date: Friday 17th November 2023
Time: 18:30 – 01:00
Venue: Hilton Hotel, 1 William Street, Glasgow

For those interested in joining us for this memorable occasion, awards tables are available for booking. To secure your spot please fill out this form here.


Bereavement Charter Webinar: “The Space Between: understanding anticipatory grief.” (1 Nov 2023)

“The Space Between: understanding anticipatory grief.”    | A webinar from Scotland’s National Bereavement Charter for Adults and Children Working Group.

Wednesday 1st November 2023, 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm (via Microsoft Teams)

The Group which developed the Charter is holding the fourth in a series of webinars exploring different elements of death and bereavement.

Full programme can be viewed below.

Register your place on: Webinar (

Bereavement Webinar Flyer - Nov 2023 (1)

Download programme 

Homeless in older age.

This coming Tuesday (10th October) is World Homeless Day. It is also a day on which for some time World Mental Health Day has been held. The occurrence of both these awareness days on the same date is perhaps not accidental because sadly there is often a close relationship between mental ill health and the causes of homelessness for many people.

World Homeless Day’s primary purpose is to raise awareness of the serious issues faced by the homeless population globally, as well as giving a focus to some of the issues which can act as a cause of homelessness.

This past week I was speaking with a former colleague who is now working for a charity that supports people who are homeless. I was reflecting with them that from my own awareness there seemed to be more rough sleepers in the centre of Glasgow when I walked through the city than I could remember for some time. It would appear that personal observation is not an inaccurate one. I was also struck by an observation he made which was that he and colleagues are seeing more and more older people becoming homeless and that older people’s homelessness is often ‘hidden and hard’.

According to a report from Shelter there are around 300,000 people across the United Kingdom who are currently experiencing homelessness. In Scotland a Scottish Government report at the end of last year highlighted the growing extent of homelessness which is indeed on the rise, increasing 10% from previous data.

One of the particular issues which interests me personally is the growing number of older persons who are becoming homeless. This is the hidden homelessness my ex-colleague referred to. Indeed, one of the first people I ever met in a residential care setting was someone who had spent a great deal of his adult life being homeless. By the time I had met him he was in his late seventies and bore all the scars from years of living rough, or time in various hostels and temporary accommodation settings. He found himself in a care home supported by understanding staff and fellow residents and perhaps for the first time in a long time having his specific needs addressed in an inclusive and positive manner. He had first become homeless as a result of a relationship breakdown and from personal mental health struggles and had found it increasingly hard to both get a job and to get himself out of the spiralling addictions which had become his lifestyle. Over the years it has become clear to me that many residents in our care homes have lived with chaotic lives up until that time.

Whilst the Scottish Government report last year highlighted that the majority of those who are homeless are under the age of 49 there is still a sizeable group (some 12%) who are over 50. It also showed that older people often fail to maintain accommodation (frequently in the private rented sector) as a result of physical as well as mental health issues. Yet this older group is least likely to take up the opportunity of temporary accommodation.

Age UK has argued that it is important for our older age citizens that we recognise that homelessness does not just mean rough sleeping. It can equally be circumstances where an older person does not feel that it is safe to remain in their own home or has been forced out of their own place because of family or community breakdown. It can also be the case that the death of a partner or a spouse can make someone homeless. Sadly, we are also increasingly aware that the cost of living crisis has prevented some people from maintaining their homes to a standard that makes them safe, and even more common that a developing or new disability or illness makes someone’s home no longer suitable to meet their needs.

As we move into autumn and winter many of us are concerned that the homes of many of our older citizens will not be fit for purpose and that many older Scots will join the growing numbers of those who are in reality homeless even if they are not noted in the official statistics. Despite record figures being reported in the media of those being made homeless in Scotland, as Citizens Advice Scotland have stated this may only be a fraction of the true story:

‘Citizens Advice Scotland spokesperson Aoife Deery said: “This is the horrifying impact of the cost of living crisis and the housing emergency. There is a serious risk these figures are the tip of the iceberg, as people can’t keep up with essential spending.

“Across the Citizens Advice network we have seen that advice on actual homelessness has been growing as a proportion of housing advice for the past few months. In fact, homelessness advice in December 2022 was up 34% from December 2021 as a proportion of all homelessness advice.”

I hope we can all of us this coming Tuesday and in the days and weeks to come reflect on the issue of homelessness in our communities, and most especially to think of older people and the reasons they may become homeless.

In so doing we might ponder the words of Ian Macmillan who wrote in last year’s Big Issue for last year’s World Homeless Day:

A Shakespearean Sonnet About Doors by Ian McMillan

It’s not much to ask. Just a door to lock.
A door that won’t break when someone kicks it.
Door with a keyhole. Respond to that knock
Or not. My choice. It’s broke so let’s fix it:
The world, I mean. Not the door. That’s ok.
It’s my door, to my room. Look: here’s the key.
The world, though. That’s different. Somewhere to stay
Is what we all need. Somewhere to be me
And not just someone you blithely ignore
When you see me sleeping on the street.
Let’s begin with this. A door. Just a door
To start with. A door. Food. Then light and heat.
The world must respond to this simple truth:
Let’s all have a door. Let’s all have a roof

National Poetry Day: Read this exclusive poem about homelessness by Ian McMillan – The Big Issue

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Donald Macaskill

A place to belong: ageing at home. A reflection for the International Day of Older Persons.  

Whenever I am with a group of people who come from outside Scotland one of the commonest questions I get asked – as I am sure we all do – is “Where do you come from?” I have to confess it is a question I have often struggled to answer and have probably given contradictory and different replies over the years.

“Where do you come from?” might simply be a request for geographical birthplace origins but it is so much more.

For me the answer is I was born in Glasgow and lived there in my formative years, then returned again as an adult. But as I walked the streets of Partick, or learnt academic lessons at Gilmorehill, or experienced life’s lessons through the delights of the city’s west end, there were undoubtedly times when I felt ‘at home’ but I’m not sure I ever felt it was the place ‘where I was from.’ That for me is the place where you feel that you truly ‘belong.’

Belonging is an intriguing concept. It can be the space that you call home, the physical bricks and mortar that offers shelter, security and nurture. But it can often be the place that yearns deep within you. For me it has always been closer to the places I sense in my blood – most especially Skye where my parents came from, where I spent every holiday, I had up until my twenties, and where even today after months and months of absence makes me feel different when I arrive there. And lest you think I’ve swallowed a dose of romantic escapism – I don’t think belonging necessarily is always positive or comfortable it can also be a place that unsettles, contradicts and challenges- but it is through all that a place that pulls you into itself and which possesses a magnetic irresistibility. Memory of place can both heal and hurt.

The role of place and the nature of belonging in our character and personality has long been recognised to be of psychological significance. Where we are born and where we live matters on so many counts; where we feel we belong aids our wellbeing and this is perhaps especially true as we age and grow older.

Tomorrow is the annual United Nations International Day of Older Persons. It is a day when we are all encouraged to think about key issues for older age across the globe but most especially in our own communities and nations.

One leading organisation, the Centre for Ageing Better, has chosen this year to focus on the integral role of older people to their place, and the importance of place to ageing well. Like many age-friendly organisations their work is in part grounded in their knowledge and awareness that the place where we live has a huge impact on our wellbeing as we age. So this year they are focussing on the need to celebrate ageing in our community’s past, present and future.

As they state:

‘This year’s IDOP theme encourages people to get curious and be proud about your place; to come together across age-groups to discover your place’s past, to celebrate the diverse range of people and places making yours a great place to age, and to commit to make changes, so more people can enjoy good later lives in your community – now and in the future.’

The ageing-in-place agenda posits that the preferred environment for older adults to age is in the community, where they can remain active, engaged, socially connected, and independent.

So how are we doing? Are we helping people to stay in place? What are we doing to make our streets and communities really inclusive of older age? This is both about the physical and built environment but also about attitudes which include, value and recognise the contribution of older age citizens.

Yesterday I walked through the city centre of my old ‘home city’ Glasgow and by my personal assessment it is not a space that is truly inclusive. Pavements which appear to prioritise cyclists but confuse citizens as to where they should walk or be; on street shop display boards that challenge someone who uses a wheelchair or who has a visual impairment; graded and stepped areas which are an invitation to slips and falls; and pedestrian crossings requiring the speed of a Usain Bolt to get across in time. A frantic, busy commercialism that seems detached from the patience and pace required to support customers living with dementia or simply with the frailty of growing old. Now I don’t want to be banned from entering Glasgow – I could just as easily have mentioned Edinburgh, London or Newcastle. The cities I’ve been in recently simply do not strike me as having prioritised ageing in place.

I think we could and should do so much better. If we are going to take ageing in place seriously we have to recognise as a whole society that we have a long long way to go. And it makes both societal and economic sense not least as the relative disposable income and spending older citizens dwarfs any other age group. But put simply our city centres have excluded themselves through urban planning which has not been age aware or sensitive.

Our population is ageing and in a decade its composition will be very different from what it is today. We need civic leaders to take ageing seriously and not as an afterthought; to create urban communities that foster belonging and equality.

But we also need there to be a wider political recognition that ageing in place with all the benefits that brings to the citizen and to the wider health economy does not just happen by accident but it has to be adequately resourced. It’s not just the physical environment that discriminates against older age.

The stripping out of funding for community based third sector groups; the lack of sustainable support for homecare organisations which foster continued independence, and the hollowing out of support for respite and older persons day resources and services are making it an uphill battle for older people who want to continue to belong to their place to remain where they want.

As the Centre for Ageing Better make clear:

‘ simply changing the built form is not sufficient to create a more inclusive environment for ageing since places are more than physical spaces. Viable environments are articulated through a strong sense of place, defined as the social, psychological and emotional bonds that people have with their environment. A strong sense of place results from having access to supports for active participation, opportunities to build and sustain social networks, and assuming a meaningful role in the community. In contrast a feeling of displacement or ‘placelessness’ is associated with alienation, isolation and loneliness, often resulting in adverse health and well-being outcomes, particularly amongst vulnerable older adults.’

Being able to age where you want should be a fundamental right of citizenship in our communities or we are at risk of creating ghettos of demography.

We all of us need to be given the tools and resources which enable us to belong in the space we choose to be.

This place has grown old with me, its ground has held my feet, its grass has cradled my belonging, its hills have nurtured my hope; its rivers have soothed my dreaming; its streets echo with the laughter of memory, its doors open up to new conversation; it’s where I want to become young in my older age.

Donald Macaskill

Photo by George Hiles on Unsplash