Partners for Integration Event – 13 October

The Partners for Integration Team will be holding an online event on  Thursday 13 October, 1:00 – 4:30 pm (previously scheduled for 15 September).

This event will look at future-proofing ethical and collaborative commissioning and procurement by sharing areas of best practice. This event is predominantly focused on homecare but is open to everyone interested in joining.

To find out more, please see the flyer below. If you are interested to join this event, please contact Tracy Doyle at [email protected].

PFI Flyer 1 - 13.10.22

Fairness is a right…dementia discrimination is the reality’. 

This blog is the substance of a speech delivered to the Alzheimer Scotland conference a fortnight ago in Edinburgh and is published as part of World Alzheimer Awareness month and in recognition of world Alzheimer Day on September 21st.

Right across Scotland this morning in a child’s bedroom, in a classroom or in a playground the phrase “It isnae fair” will be heard on the lips of a face of pure innocence – usually accompanied by “It wisnae me” – Fairness even when we are children seems to be a concept with which we are instinctively familiar. And you would have hoped that if we know what being fair is all about from as it were our mother’s knee that as we mature and grow in age and life that fairness would be at the heart of our interactions with one another, would be etched into our body politic like the writing inside a stick of rock. But it clearly is not otherwise I wouldn’t be standing here about to say what I am about to say.

There isn’t a lot fair about dementia. I remember when my mother was diagnosed it was one of the first things, we all said – that a woman who had spent her life for others, who had been there for her children and neighbour, pouring out love with her cups of tea turned into tar, that the epitome of goodness should be diagnosed with this most hellish of conditions – it certainly wisnae fair. But like countless in this room and undeniably mainly through the compassion of my sister my mother got on with it and we all walked the journey of the disease towards its destination. But even in that patterning there seemed to me and to us all an intrinsic unfairness to the way she was treated – not by us or others who loved her, but by the system of health and social care. A system which made her management of her condition all the harder.

I ran an equality and human rights consultancy for over a decade and a half – in that time I witnessed and come across the most blatant forms of racial, sexual, gender and disability discrimination, even hatred. But in truth and this shames me when I see and consider the way in which as a society in Scotland, we have treated people with dementia and their allies – it is as nothing to the discriminatory treatment of those with dementia. Indeed, in a recent blog I made the statement that to live in Scotland today with dementia is to be marginalised, diminished, and ignored. And you can imagine the brickbats for that one. But I really meant and mean it. I wasn’t playing to the galleries. I was pleading for some sort of change.

Honestly – if it is not discrimination – what is the unequal treatment of people with dementia? It is three years since I and others listened to Henry McLeish the former First Minister at the launch of Alzheimer’s Scotland’s report and work on Fairness and the echoing absence of commitment, and the vacuous emptiness of rhetoric has left us with no change, not an iota of progress and that which was even promised has been pushed into the long grass of political commitments to be revisited when other priorities are attended to and other agendas fulfilled.

Let us be completely honest here and I will say this in the simplest of terms so that those with ears can hear and those too stubborn to answer can respond. If dementia is not primarily a health condition, then what is it?

Yes, dementia affects our social interaction with others, yes it affects our ability to live independently, yes it affects our ability to be a citizen in our communities – all characteristics of social care and what social care seeks to address – inclusion, participation, and voice.

But my mother’s primary needs – over and above all else – were health needs. Her brain and body were bulldozed by a condition that is first and foremost a clinical disease. So why the dickens did we have to fight and so many of you have to struggle to get a political, fiscal and societal response to dementia which is fair?

At the apex of all this is the fact that if you have health needs then your treatment and care is free at the point of delivery. Dementia not only overtakes our living and loving, but the way we have structured our response in this Scottish society means it consumes our resources, it eats up our cash and removes our assets. In very real terms and especially now when we are faced with cost of living and energy crises it impoverishes families and pushes many into a poverty of finance as well as a poverty of heart and soul. I know so many who are worrying today about how they will be able to pay for the cost of a loved one with dementia – whether in care home or in their own home. That should not be – it is obscene beyond description that we should as a society have created a divide between those who are ill, those with different long-term conditions. It is wholly unacceptable. It is not fair!

To treat someone as different – to behave in a manner which diminishes them, which deteriorates their health and wellbeing, is discrimination.  As a society we are allowed, of course to treat people differently, but must only do so if the end is justifiable and provided that we do not treat someone unfairly because of their race or disability or sexual orientation and so on.

The experience of people with dementia is discriminatory – pure and simple. As a society we rightly call out and condemn the unequal treatment of someone who is Muslim or Jewish, or a minority ethnic person, or someone who is Gay or Trans – we even accept the necessity of hate legislation to call out the perpetrators of such abuse. But what do we do when it is our societal system which allows the abuse to continue against people with dementia – because people with dementia are discriminated against on the grounds of age and gender, as well as health condition and diagnosis? I have said before that the treatment of people living with dementia because they are primarily older and by a majority female is riven with blatant age and subtle gender discrimination. What we witness every day is a lack of political and social nerve, commitment, and intention.

Fundamentally this is a human rights issue, one of the major ones of our time and generation. Human rights are not just about the big macro things which impact on our society, they are not just about the way those outside our country are treated. Scotland is on the cusp of creating a new human rights legislation and we have a tremendous opportunity to do things differently and to truly walk the talk about human rights and dementia. For human rights to mean something more than simple words, they must come alive in the ordinariness of our loving and living. Where dementia is concerned human rights seem if not dead at least absent – it is time to resuscitate our commitment to making Scotland a human rights society, and to give new life to dementia strategies that don’t just pay lip service to human rights and think that by mentioning them the task is completed – we need to embed, enact and let our rights flourish. We need to act to make human rights real for dementia.

Fairness when you look at it in the dictionary has a range of meanings – yes it means to treat someone with impartiality, to be even handed and respectful but it also in its Old English derivation and in Old Scots has a sense of ‘beauty’ about it. Something which is fair is considered to be a thing of beauty. To stretch this somewhat there is something beauty about acting in a way which is equal, which considers that the treatment of individuals with dementia and their kin, should be about equality, free from bias and discrimination, of age or condition; that it should be about their human rights. There is something beautiful about equality – but what we have in the current system is not beauty but the ugliness of discrimination, of partiality and victimisation of a condition and those affected by it.

We can wait for others to wake up and finally listen, or we can together act, demonstrate, shout and campaign with even greater vigour. We have to recognise we have power, voice and ability beyond that which we know and that together we can and do make a difference. Human rights, equality, challenging discrimination does not happen on paper it happens in the hearts and minds of people; it happens when we work together to challenge the wrong. And this is all wrong. There is no alternative – for people like my mother now long gone, and for countess now living and those yet to struggle with dementia we have no alternative but to join with others to say ‘This isnae Fair’ and its time to stop!

Donald Macaskill

Care Technologist Phase 3 Pilot

Scottish Care are trialling a new Care Technologist role in care at home and care home settings in a 12 month, TEC funded Test of Change.

Following a successful 6-month trial with SRS Specialist Resource Solutions in Aberdeen, the Care Technologist project is extending to 2 further geographical areas – East Ayrshire and Glasgow, and the scope now includes Care Homes and Daycare services.

This Homecare Day 2022, we will be hosting a digital drop-in session for anyone interested to know more about the project and meet the Care Technologists, Katherine Long, Dan Plant and Cheryl Stevenson. This will take place online, 2pm – 3pm on Thursday 22nd September.

‘Join our first Digital Drop-in session here’

We are currently working with Baillieston Community Care, HRM Homecare, SRS Specialist Resource Solutions and care homes represented by Scottish Care to trial the role.

David Reilly, CEO of Baillieston Community Care said: 

“We are absolutely delighted to be taking part in the Care Technologist Project with Scottish Care, and having a Care Technologist working within our organisation. We see technology playing such an important role in the future of Social Care, supporting our workforce and ensuring the best possible outcomes for the people we support. We look forward to the year ahead and seeing the impact that this project will have on the people we support, their families and our staff.”

Lynn Laughland, Managing Director of HRM Homecare Services said:

“At HRM Homecare Services, we are enthusiastic about bringing the role of a Care Technologist into our business and being part of this project with Scottish Care. Digitalisation is important to the growth of the Care Sector, and the benefits of technology can help to support people who access care by ensuring their needs are nurtured through the implementation of appropriate technologies. We are excited and encouraged by the role of Care Technologist and believe this is the right step forward for the Scottish Social Care Sector.”

For more information about the role, our strategy and how we are helping people to live well, you can read more about the Care Technologist below.

https://scottishcare.org/the-care-technologist-project/

If you would like to stay up to date with the progress of the project, you can sign up to receive updates via email or drop-in to one of our online sessions which take place monthly. You can opt-in to either of these by getting in touch below.

Katherine (Care Technologist Lead and care home delivery): [email protected]

 the other side of memory…

One of the consequences of writing a weekly blog is that it comes round inexorably every week. It also means that you cannot really avoid the events and what has happened in the week that has passed. That said I had decided not to write this blog today up until a few moments ago, not least as there have been so many words, memories and thoughts shared about the death of Her Majesty the Queen. But having spoken to a few folks and having read so much on social media, the traditional press and watched so much television I have been struck by a few thoughts and want briefly to share them.

Social media can be especially cruel and notwithstanding the fact that there is a very real diversity of opinion around the role of the monarchy what has surprised and also saddened me is the frequency of comments relating to the fact that we should mourn less the death of someone who reached the age of 96 compared to someone who was younger. I come across this all the time, indeed virtually every day. The inevitability of working in the care sector around and with older people is that death in latter age and very old age is natural. Associated with that is an ageist societal assumption that because someone is older that their death is of less value or significance and more than that that the sense of loss and grief and emptiness on the part of those who are left should be by consequence less severe. Too often have I come across people in their twenties or thirties made to feel guilty that they are struggling with the loss of a grandparent in their nineties. Such a presumption makes a mockery of the reality that when we lose someone we love the longer the length of that relationship the deeper the well of emptiness and the depth of sadness we mine. Tears are no less strong, the pain of not seeing that familiar face, the echoing absence of presence is no less diminished and intense simply because someone has reached a very old age. They still had so much to give and share, so much to achieve and be, that their absence is as acute as the loss of someone much younger. I think it is simply wrong for so many today to point to a life well lived and a long and healthy one and to somehow impugn that the pain of grief should by consequence be dictated by the chronology of time

The second brief observation I want to make is that I have been surprised by how much I have been personally touched by the death of the Queen. I am by no means the only one who has mentioned this or spoken of the sense of being caught out by the sadness of the hour. One of the main reasons for this, I suspect, for me is that her death has brought to mind the memories of my own parents now long gone and of grandparents even longer away from me. I have reflected on the struggles they had and the death of the Queen as one of the last of a generation who shared their days of history through war and renewal, has resonated deeply. There is a sense for many of us that a touchstone, a cairn of memory and moment, the security of a presence that affirms familiarity and belonging has passed with the death of the Queen. We need I think as a whole society to acknowledge the sense of individual grief people are feeling at this moment, not just for their sense of losing the Queen, but for the fact that her death has opened up for many of us memories of those important to us who are now longer alive. It is rare for the death of someone else to bring home the rawness and questions of our own grief, and such feelings need to be held and supported by the love of those around us and by the awareness of the wider community. The death of the Queen has made many of us face up to our own work of grief and so many of us are ill equipped for that journey. We will in the days and weeks ahead be faced with a collective and personal grieving which will require communal understanding and love.

Lastly – and this may be somewhat ironic given you have read up to this point – there have been so many words written and said, television programmes and films aired about the life of the Queen over the last two days and this will doubtless continue up until the State Funeral. It is only right, I think, that as a society we will continue to focus on memory and loss, recollection and insight, but I really hope we get some space to be silent, to grieve and to be quiet, that we can all be given space simply to be on their own, apart from the commentary and comment, cocooned from the sounds and words, alone from the sights of flickering film and footage.

A funeral is a marker and a moment, a ritual of remembering which even for someone we only know as an anchor in our communal togetherness, needs to be a time and a day apart from all others. The funeral of the Queen will touch so many people in such diverse ways. I really hope that we all of us have the chance to find a space or place to nestle into our grieving for whomever we are grieving; I hope we can find a way in which we are able to be supported and loved in our hurting; I hope that those living in the face of a dying loved one find the ability to be present with that person; that those who have in these days lost someone important to them have the sense that their death is as valued as the mourned one society is focussing on;  because when all the words are spoken, all the cameras are shut off, all the people wander off to the ordinariness of living, when friends return to their own lives, the bereaved are left to the emptiness of absence, to a room unfilled with love… it is then we must be present to hold each other up and that is even harder if the days before that moment are as full as they have been.

 

 the other side of memory…

 I close my eyes and remember…

 

all those days that we have shared;

when you brought a bright spark

to cold and damp monotony;

when we collapsed in side-splitting laughter

about the nothing things of life;

when we listened to a piece of music

and tears sounded to its rhythm.

 

I close my eyes and remember…

 

all those faces that we have watched;

the fearful thrill of cradling life

as young new-born parents;

the certainty of adult doubt

as teenagers looked for answers;

the aching loss as the bone of our beginning

shrouded itself into the earth.

 

I close my eyes and remember…

 

all those places we have wandered;

the homes that we have furnished

with the love of our welcoming;

the journeys we have made

whose destination was beyond a horizon;

the hearts and lives we have changed

though we were blind to the knowing.

 

I close my eyes and remember…

 

all those graces we have been given;

the gentle glimpse of your hand,

open to share and bring comfort;

the smile which put at ease the stranger

and made them a friend for life;

the timbre of your content

as music filled a room;

the fragility of your strength,

from knowing Love in our midst.

 

I open my eyes and recognise…

 

that as the sun sets on this day,

as dusk scatters light

into the encroaching dark;

so somewhere,

on the other side of memory,

you are there.

 

And in that place beyond all sense

the sun is already shining,

the light is growing,

as the dawn of new beginning

aches its way through love’s pain

and loss’s mourning.

 

I open my eyes and see

that you and I are

both here and there,

both memory and future;

 

a life lived,

a love shared,

a beginning started,

a light rising,

over there

on the other side of memory.

 

Donald Macaskill

Partners for Integration Event – CANCELLED

In light of the sad news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as a mark of respect, we will not be going ahead with the Partners for Integration Event – Future-proofing ethical and collaborative commissioning and procurement by sharing areas of best practice. This online event was due to take place next week on Thursday 15 September.

Our thoughts and condolences are with the Royal Family and everyone who knew and loved her at this very difficult time. We will make an announcement to any future arrangements regarding this event once we are able to.

Scottish Care CEO responds to energy plans

Scottish Care CEO, Dr Donald Macaskill, responds to the Prime Minister’s speech on the Government’s plan for energy bills. He said:

“The announcement of a 6-month freeze in energy costs for businesses by the Prime Minister is to be welcomed. The devil in all such statements is in the detail. We note that there will be a requirement to review this support after a 3-month period and that there is a probability that this will target vulnerable businesses. The very nature of the care home and homecare sector is that it is one of the most vulnerable sectors and we will continue to argue strongly to the UK and Scottish Government ministers that emergency priority must be given to the care sector to ensure that those who use social care services, who are amongst our most critical citizens, will be adequately supported over the next years of energy uncertainty.”

Five Nations Care Forum Statement on Social Care Energy Crisis

News Release: Social care energy crisis

Intervention is required to prevent the collapse of social care from rising energy costs.

The Five Nations Care Forum, which comprises of care associations from Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is calling for urgent intervention in the energy crisis in social care.

Rightfully, there have been many stories in the media about the sharp increase in energy costs for domestic consumers. However, the increases in energy costs will lead many vulnerable older people who desperately need a Winter of warmth to place themselves in situations of risk to health and wellbeing. The increases have already placed tens of thousands of citizens into real fuel poverty.

Little attention has been given to the effect of energy price increases on care homes and homecare organisations. The astronomical increases in energy bills have led to many care homes closing. Rising fuel costs have also meant that homecare organisations are closing their doors to new business, and handing back care packages.

Some of our most vulnerable people in care and supported housing are excluded from the various measures in place to support people living in their own homes with their increasing energy costs, such as the £400 energy rebate. There needs to be parity for the individuals living in care and support.

Social care and support providers are facing eye-watering increases in excess of 400% in their energy costs, both gas and electricity costs, which is simply unsustainable. The current energy crisis comes at a time when the sector is experiencing the worst workforce pressures the sector has ever known. Care and support providers are in a position where they must be able to offer better pay and rewards to retain and recruit staff, which is a direct impact of the pandemic.

Without assistance and funding, the rising costs will lead to many more care providers shutting down and ceasing the delivery of care. Staff will lose their jobs and local communities will lose vital care services. For care homes, the loss of home, familiarity and shared company will be devastating for affected residents. And trauma caused by care home closures can have a life-shortening effect. Some of the UK’s and Ireland’s most vulnerable citizens will effectively lose their homes and will have to move to the local hospital or another care facility.

Social care enables people to return home from the hospital and receive adequate care and support, stopping unnecessary admission. A rise in care home and homecare closures will result in real pressure on the NHS. With hospitals already overburdened, they will be unable to cope with delayed discharges, hence having a negative and dramatic impact on those who need NHS treatment and care. If social care collapses because of the energy crisis, then the NHS will follow soon after.

The current energy crisis presents a very real threat to the sustainability of social care delivery. Social care services provide a vital public service to the most vulnerable in our communities but have been largely ignored through the packages of support offered to the nation in dealing with the cost-of-living crisis. There is also a need to treat this care energy crisis with the same degree of emergency financial intervention as was received during the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, the Five Nations Care Forum calls on the Governments of the UK and Ireland to attend to this issue as a matter of urgency by:

  1. Issuing emergency funding to the social care sector to deal with the rising energy bills
  2. Introducing an energy price cap for care settings in line with the domestic energy price cap.
  3. Extending that allvulnerable people have access to energy rebates , including those who have made their home in residential homes or supported living.
  4. Ensuring any tax based reform applies to energy bills in a way that incorporates all care settings.

-ends-


This statement has been issued by Scottish Care on behalf of the Five Nations Care Forum, of which Scottish Care is a member.

About the Five Nations Care Forum

The 5 Nations Care Forum is an alliance of professional associations representing the care sector across the UK and Ireland. Through a collective commitment to information sharing, joint lobbying, shared learning and support, the 5 Nations Care Forum aims to add value to members’ activity by promoting the interests of service recipients, staff and service providers. The Forum seeks to encourage the development of a joined-up approach to matters which have a UK-wide or European dimension.

For more information including membership: http://www.fivenationscareforum.com/

 About Scottish Care

Scottish Care is a membership organisation and the representative body for independent social care services in Scotland.  We represent over 400 organisations, which totals almost 1000 individual services, delivering residential care, nursing care, day care, care at home and housing support services. Our membership covers both private and voluntary sector provider organisations.

For more information on Scottish Care’s work: www.scottishcare.org

Media

Media queries, including interview requests should be made via [email protected]

 

 

The right to read: the freedom of words

I have been thinking a lot about words this week. Our whole lives are dominated by our ability to communicate. Whether digitally or in the non-digital world our ability to belong and to find a place in modern society is for many conditioned by the extent to which they are comfortable with words, writing and language. For those who struggle with words, whether because of disability or any other reason, our dependency upon words can be a very real struggle. But there are also countless millions whose inability to use words and specifically to be able to read or write puts them at an acute disadvantage.

I have probably reached a stage in life in which I am comfortable with words and language and even enjoy the experience, not least as I have reflected in this blog before in the use of words in poetry and in literature. It was not always thus. As someone whose first language was not English but rather a strange mixture of twin-speak and Gaelic, I initially struggled both with spoken English and most certainly with written English. Years of attending Speech and Language therapy gave me the confidence to be able to ‘speak’ and to write. As well as that more formal support, I was also fortunate to have had in my life a rather indomitable ex-headteacher who I had as a Hebridean great aunt. I still remember and have somewhere lost in my belongings the letters I wrote to her as a child on an almost fortnightly basis and having said letters returned ‘corrected’ in red ink but with the added bonus of some money to spend! I’m not quite sure what was the greater motivator – the improving English or the purchase power of a few pennies!

This coming week contains two days which are focussed on both the enjoyment which words can bring but also the challenge of not being able to be comfortable in a world of words.

The first of these days is Tuesday which is this year as every September 6th Read a Book Day. It is an annual awareness day that encourages all of us to take a break and get reading, ‘either curled up on the sofa or with family and friends.’ It is designed to encourage both the old and the new reader to discover or re-discover the joys which can come from reading. The best novels and works of fiction help to stretch our horizons to worlds beyond our experience and take us on journeys of the imagination into realms of thought and mind, discovery and delight, which we could have previously not thought of.

In these hectic and challenging times, it is for many people a very necessary escape to slow the rhythm of the day and to be able to read. But of course, in times of real economic challenge and constraint buying a book or purchasing a download may be the last thing on someone’s mind or budget. It was a sad indication of the pandemic the number of libraries that had to reduce hours and have shut down or not re-opened. Scotland has had a long tradition of enabling the gift of reading to be something experienced by all through our national Library system free at the point of use. It is to the impoverishment of communities, our children and adults, and our wider aspirations as a society if the ability of people to ‘read a book’ becomes limited to those who can afford to do so. There are especial benefits to older people in being supported to continue reading ( not least as visual impairments develop), and amongst these are the ability reading frequently gives to an individual to keep memory active, help to increase focus and concentration and the evidence that frequent reading slows cognitive decline such as dementia. The availability of reading opportunities is a matter of public health not leisure priority.

The second day which in the coming week touches on these issues is International Literacy Day, which is celebrated on the 8th September, and which under the auspices of the UN has been going for over 50 years. Illiteracy remains a global problem and it is estimated that there are more than 750 million adults around the world who cannot read. But it is an issue which is right around the corner on our own doorstep in Scotland.

According to a major study:

  • 3% of the Scottish working age population have a level of literacies that is recognised internationally as appropriate for a contemporary society;
  • around one quarter of the Scottish population (26.7%) may face occasional challenges and constrained opportunities due to their literacies difficulties, but will generally cope with their day-to-day lives; and
  • within this quarter of the population, 3.6% (one person in 28) face serious challenges in their literacies practices.

(see a fuller report at BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT – Adult Literacies in Scotland 2020: Strategic guidance – gov.scot (www.gov.scot) )

Illiteracy is something that bedevils so many people and limits their ability to contribute, participate and engage as full citizens of our communities. As the UN states not being able to read a prescription bottle, or a road sign, a menu in a restaurant, a voting ballot or the instructions on an item of food – are all activities which cause both harm and limitation. It is not for nothing that literacy is deemed internationally to be a human right.

To be able to read grants individual freedom, to be denied the opportunity of literacy by a lack of focus or priority in any society removes the ability to be a free citizen in any community. So as those of us fortunate to read grab a chance to do just that this week, perhaps with children or grandchildren, friends and partners, then let us all strive to ensure that it is a gift shared with all around us.

The so-called American ‘People’s Poet’ Edgar Albert Guest who championed literacy and the ability to read, sums it up well:

‘Good books are friendly things to own.

If you are busy they will wait.

They will not call you on the phone

Or wake you if the hour is late.

They stand together row by row,

Upon the low shelf or the high.

But if you’re lonesome this you know:

You have a friend or two nearby.

 

The fellowship of books is real.

They’re never noisy when you’re still.

They won’t disturb you at your meal.

They’ll comfort you when you are ill.

The lonesome hours they’ll always share.

When slighted they will not complain.

And though for them you’ve ceased to care

Your constant friends they’ll still remain.

 

Good books your faults will never see

Or tell about them round the town.

If you would have their company

You merely have to take them down.

They’ll help you pass the time away,

They’ll counsel give if that you need.

He has true friends for night and day

Who has a few good books to read.’

 

Edgar Albert Guest https://allpoetry.com/Good-Books

 

Donald Macaskill

Homecare Day & Light Up for Carers 2022 – 22 September

Homecare Day

Homecare Day will be held on Thursday 22 September 2022. 

This is a largely online event which looks to celebrate and recognise the homecare services across the UK. Whether you are a provider, worker or partner, we would love to hear your positive good-news stories about the care at home/housing support sector.

The theme of Homecare Day is ‘Homecare Voices’ with the aim to:

  • Listen to the voices of care at home & house supporting staff, providers, managers, service users and relatives.
  • Showcase the expertise of the homecare workforce, and how they should be valued more.
  • Highlight how homecare plays a crucial role in the health and social care system and within their communities.

You can help us commemorate the day by sharing any good news stories, resources, projects, blogs or an example of an innovative practice on social media.

Please use the hashtags below when sharing content, and  will re-share from the Scottish Care account.

#homecareday22
#homecarevoices

If you aren’t on social media, please feel free to share any stories with us at [email protected].

We will be creating some resources for members to use on Homecare Day, these will be sent out in the next weeks.

Light Up for Carers

The Partners for Integration team, along with Scottish Care, will be marking ‘Homecare Day’ by lighting up buildings in Scotland to give thanks to the homecare and social care workforce.

A full list of buildings involved in this initiative will be sent out closer to the time.

The buildings will be lit up in the colour yellow, which was chosen to symbolise the flame of a candle, much like our ‘Candle for Care’ campaign on Twitter.

The homecare sector shows us caring, resilience and compassion at its best. Yet this workforce is often undervalued and not recognised. This workforce deserves recognition for their dedication and professionalism every day of the week, regardless of weather, risk or fear.

This is the perfect opportunity to acknowledge the social care workforce and we encourage care home workers to join the celebration at these buildings on the evening of Thursday 22 September.


More details to follow.

The glamorisation of poverty: a dangerous delusion- a thought piece

Like many people of my generation, I have always feared or at least been anxious about poverty. Memories of lack rather than emptiness have conditioned me as the first of my family to go to university to always have a desire to look over my shoulder to see the past story of family poverty coming up on the inside lane. Professionally I have seen and witnessed first-hand the demeaning and devastating effects of poverty. It comes in all sorts of sordid shapes; the inability to put food on the table which is nutritious and healthy; the indignity of having to borrow money or get the shopping on the ‘tick’; the rented room with the constant air of damp that infiltrates everything and leads to avoidable asthma; the parents struggling to get the ‘right’ Christmas present for their wee one so that they don’t become the object of bullying on their return to school; the holidays not experienced, the birthday parties not held; the continual drip drip of debt and borrowing; the pensioner whose savings are to bury them and who sits shivering in front of a one bar electric fire to say nothing of all the countless lives drowning in the false illusory escape of alcohol and drugs. I’ve seen them all and I’ve also seen the subtle poverty that might not even call itself such. The poverty that is one of limited ambition and silenced perspective – don’t seek to contribute or achieve because you went to the ‘wrong school’ have the ‘wrong’ accent or simply don’t wear the ‘right’ clothes and conduct yourself in the ‘right’ way. The poverty of “I know where you came from and nothing worthy has ever come from there.” Poverty of opportunity, access and aspiration can and is just as sapping of hope as poverty in its traditional sense.

It has therefore been with a degree of more than self-interest that I’ve been watching the media portrayal of the current cost of living challenges facing our society. I have become concerned and irritated by what I would call the glamorisation or acceptability of poverty and its effects. Now I accept there is and always has been a fine balance between stigmatising poverty and romanticising or validating it.

There is nothing new in this. For every example of modern ‘slum tourism’ there have been antecedents not least with the Victorians who were masters at the hypocrisy of poverty. On the one hand they held guided tours to allow the rich to ogle at the mentally ill of the Bedlam asylum and on the other they tried to address the horrors of child labour in factory and field. They painted paintings of elegiac beauty about Highlanders being cast out into the snow but perpetuated the brutal clearances of people in the name of mutton progress.

More recently social commentators have coined the phrase ‘poverty chic’ as a catchall phrase for the growing cultural tendency of using poverty as a vehicle for inspiration, idea or design. It is a phenomenon most commented upon in relation to American popular culture, but it also has its expressions closer to home. If you are interested in exploring these ideas further, I’d recommend the writing of the blogger Stacy Lee Kong. She has reviewed the hugely popular work of Justin Bieber and his album ‘Hold On’ and argues how it is illustrative of poverty chic. She concludes: (and I would suggest this resonates with some contemporary British song writing):

‘It’s clear what Bieber and his collaborator on these videos, director Colin Tilley, are trying to do here. Their goal is to make some unspecified statement about precarious work, affordable housing, the high cost of healthcare in America and/or poverty in general, which is an admirable desire, I guess. But in practice, these videos feature Bieber and a bunch of other actors pretending to be members of America’s downtrodden in order to tell a love story and to project some sort of nobility and honour onto “simple” lives. There’s no actual engagement with the systemic reasons why hard, dirty jobs are often the only option for young people in North America, or why so many young, and particularly racialized, women don’t have access to healthcare. And okay, maybe that’s a lot to ask of a music video. But without that context, what’s the final message of “Holy,” really? That people experiencing poverty and homelessness can depend on the kindness of strangers? That love overcomes all? These are glib platitudes, not reality.’

Of course, she is absolutely right. The glamorisation of poverty is a perversion of painful reality. When art and fashion curate poverty into a new aesthetic for clothing or interior design; when philosophies and belief systems elevate the poor as being somehow especially worthy or when creativity and genius are portrayed as the fruit of suffering and economic want then we have perversely lost our moral compass.

Bringing things back to the present – what has recently concerned me as along with others I have sought in blogs and in the media to highlight the dangers of energy and cost of living poverty – is the possibility of a new subtle version of poverty chic beginning to appear in our media. At times it smacks to me of the stench of bread and circuses.

So this past while I have begun to read many stories about how we can survive poverty or the challenges ahead. I read a Daily Telegraph story of the benefits of hunger and intermittent fasting appearing on the 16th August. Then the next day I came across a story in the Express about how mouldy food was perfectly okay to eat. Then just a few days ago on the 23rd August the Mirror carried an article entitled ‘I went shopping for Asda’s Just Essentials range and couldn’t believe what £10 got me’ – at least in its text it noted the risk of stigma and impact. Along the same lines we have had some articles stating that waking up with ice on the inside of the windows in winter as you were growing up wasn’t all that bad indeed it was character forming! Delusions which ignore the generations who grew up with respiratory conditions!

What is going on here? Am I being over-sensitive about the sudden growth in articles and commentary which might be arguably said to be asking us to accept the inevitability of less, the reality of restriction, of poorer food quality, greater want and poverty?

The acceptance of poverty as inevitable, the willingness to concede that it is a given that people will die because of an economic down turn or an energy crisis, the collaterising of life is a moral and political trap we would do well to call out and avoid where ever we see it.

Those who are living through and who have known poverty know it is an experience and pain not ultimately worthy of art or creativity, design or aesthetic, but rather demanding of action, solidarity, re-orientation and change. Don’t be deluded into thinking poverty is either romantic, glamorous or inevitable.

The brilliant poet Edwin Morgan who regular readers will know I much admire sums it up well. The air of poverty is one too raw to breathe or glamorise. It robs us and we should not let poverty chic suffocate the air of action and response.

GLASGOW SONNET i

A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash.

Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses

puff briefly and subside. Play-fortresses

of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash.

Four storeys have no windows left to smash,

but in the fifth a chipped sill buttresses

mother and daughter the last mistresses

of that black block condemned to stand, not crash.

Around them the cracks deepen, the rats crawl.

The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob. Roses of mould grow from ceiling to wall.

The man lies late since he has lost his job,

smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall

thinly into an air too poor to rob.

See https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Glasgow-Sonnet-i-by-Edwin-Morgan.pdf?

Donald Macaskill