Announcement of Social Care Support

Scottish Care is pleased that the Scottish Government issued a statement this afternoon (23rd March) indicating that social care was at the heart of the fight against Coronavirus. We look forward too working with colleagues in COSLA to ensure that this support gets to hard hit providers and frontline care workers. 

The statement reads:

Scottish Government to meet increased costs.

Councils have been asked to increase support for care at home, nursing homes and care homes to reduce delayed discharges and free up hospital beds.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has confirmed to COSLA that, subject to expenditure being aligned to local plans, the Scottish Government will meet additional costs to increase support and staff capacity in social care.

The move aims to help the care system adapt to increased pressure placed on it by COVID -19, with many people requiring continued support for daily living, even if they have not contracted the virus.

Ms Freeman said:

“We have placed the NHS on an emergency footing and we also need to increase the capacity in our social care sector.

“Extensive work is already underway by health and social care partnerships to free up hospital beds and care for older people, and others in need of support, in care homes and in our communities.

“We have now informed councils that any additional expenditure to maximise the care available to our communities, aligned to work that is already underway, will be covered by the Scottish Government.”

COSLA’s Health and Social Care spokesperson Councillor Stuart Currie said: “COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge to anyone working in caring professions in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government and local government have shared leadership to ensure the entire system is working together to optimise the impact on the wellbeing of our communities.  Work is underway locally to do this and today’s announcement gives welcome assurance to the sector about the steps which will be taken to maximise the care available to our communities.

“COSLA guidance will be issued shortly to support commissioners to work collaboratively to protect the resilience of the social care sector and ensure they remain operationally and financially viable.” 

A thought piece on Coronavirus from our CEO Donald Macaskill

“ I don’t know what people are worrying about. It’s just going to kill the old folks.”

That’s one of the many remarks I have overheard on public transport this week since conversations started to focus in on COVID-19. When you couple these comments with public officials stating in the media that the majority of deaths from the virus have been “just amongst the elderly” you are left with the distinct impression that this is not a pandemic the majority of us need to get too worried about.

But the place where such attitudes have almost become endemic is social media. There are literally hundreds of tweets suggesting that those of a youthful age and who are not  immuno-suppressed need not worry – all will be well –  just clean your hands! Some of the content on Twitter really doesn’t hold back:

‘Corona virus is killing pretty much just old people. It sounds like Earth is getting revenge for them destroying literally the entire planet and not caring about it.’

‘What I find so funny about this is the corona virus is deadly to old people which are the establishment and conservatives biggest base. If god uses diseases to punish I wonder what message hes saying with this one.’

Not since the AIDS epidemic was painted as the judgment of a righteous God has there been such a negative discriminatory association between a virus and a specific group.

Of course, the reality is that any virus never discriminates by the age of its victim but rather anybody regardless of their date of birth and most especially those with a supressed or limited immune system are disproportionately affected.

I find it immensely despairing that there is both within the wider public and in the media a creeping ageism in the reporting of and discussions around COVID-19. It is almost as if because someone is older in years that their dying is of less impact or importance; that their loss to the community, to family and friends is somehow less painful and distressing to those left behind.

At one level you could say that what we are seeing here is simply classic age discrimination playing out on Covid-19 as it does in so many walks of life from employment to the allocation of public funding. But I suspect at another level what is happening is something much more significant and profound.

What does this say about us as communities and as a nation in Scotland? Is the virus beginning to strip away the polite veneer that hides attitudes and beliefs that are simply ageist and hostile against the old? Are we finally unmasking a popular consensus that considers that to be old means that your worth is over, your contribution complete and your value limited?

The way in which we respond to any challenge marks us out both as individuals and as a community. Are we going to be one which in cold-centred self-interest and protection considers the value of an old person to be less than someone much younger? Are we going to become blasé to the fact that perhaps thousands of our older citizens will be affected by and many will die as a result of this disease?

Over the next few days and weeks thousands of women and men who work in health and social care services will be putting other people, their care and support, before their own needs. We will undoubtedly as we often have in the past witness a selfless dedication and professionalism that doesn’t just go the extra mile but an extra marathon in terms of commitment, compassion and love.

The days ahead will help to shape us as a society. Will we be a Scotland which cares for others, gives value and grants respect regardless of chronology or age? Or will we care less, commit less, consider less because someone is in their eighties or nineties?

Coronavirus will be a test not just of the infrastructures of health and care, of business and commerce, it will be a test which will determine the nature of our nation. Will we be a Scotland that cares for the old or will our compassion be limited by discrimination?

Dr Donald Macaskill

This piece first appeared in The National newspaper on Sunday 8th March 2020. 


International Women’s Day: a blog from our National Director, Karen Hedge

Yesterday I dropped my children off at school on ‘World Book Day’. Amidst a sea of Harry Potter characters and superheroes I spotted someone else. There over by the door was Frida Kahlo, this girl of about 9 years old had brought the book ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’, 100 tales of extraordinary women. I purchased our own copy that morning.

Yet in doing so, I felt discontent. Of course I want my son and daughter to hear about the impact that women throughout history have made, but I could not overlook that twinge of disappointment and perhaps also a bit of rage that in 2020 we are still having to create our own platform to do so. Given the recent decisions and discussion around immigration, with a UK Government irresponsibly  and incorrectly describing social care as low skilled, this is a theme sorely and dangerously evident in social care. Intersectionality makes this worse.

The reality is that social care staff are highly skilled, professionally registered and regulated. They spend their working hours (and often more given that a significant proportion have personal caring responsibilities) supporting our loved ones, some of whom may require palliative or end of life care, have multiple co-morbidities, advanced neurological conditions or dementia and so on.

SSSC data shows that 86% of our care home workforce and 81% of our homecare workforce is female. Anecdotally from previous Scottish Care focus groups, we believe that many of those who do work in social care often take on ‘male-dominated roles’ such as handyman or chef. That there is such a gender divide should not really be surprising, it mirrors other sectors – 83% of primary school teachers are female.

We have a his-and-her-story of working with peers of our own gender; one of the contributing factors to the gender pay gap. A recent report by the Kings Fund[1] states ‘Jobs done by women are undervalued’ both in terms of the value society places on the jobs and the wage people are paid. Jobs with a higher percentage of women tend to be lower paid, and if, over time, the proportion of women increases average pay goes down further.’. Sadly I can evidence this from my own experience. I first worked as a paid carer in 2000 earning around £8.75 per hour. In 2020, social care is purchased by local authorities (usually) on the premise that social care workers are paid the Scottish Living Wage of £9.30. That makes a rise of 55p over 20 years.

One of the suggestions to counter this imbalance is to encourage more men to work in the sector as if balancing the gender of the workforce, would increase the value of the job. Of course having a more diverse workforce is welcome and a positive proposition, and from an academic perspective, this move makes perfect hypothetical sense, but a cultural shift takes time, and in many ways dilutes the issue to hand. The other solution is simply to recognise and value the workforce for the registered and highly skilled people they are.

Another example, to use the term coined by Carolina Criado-Perez in the same-titled book, of ‘Invisible Women’ is that social care contributes £3.4 billion to the Scottish Economy, which is more than agriculture, forestry and fishing. It seems no coincidence that the latter is a sector traditionally dominated by men.

Yet there are positive changes and opportunities. Whilst women are less likely to be company owners or shareholders, this trend is bucked in social care. Where other Boards are implementing 50:50 rules for the make-up of their Board, the Scottish Care Executive required no design to meet that criteria, it happened naturally as a result of the significant number of women in those roles.

At middle manager level, it is still the majority of staff who are women. Bringing their frontline leadership skills with them – social care staff are very often lone workers adept at making decisions in what can sometimes be challenging situations, they are well-prepared and qualified for the responsibility. As evidenced in the Scottish Care report ‘The Experience of the Experienced’ others have entered the sector bringing skills from elsewhere. We must also recognise that many have taken a reduction in pay or conditions to pursue this career where they can make a difference every day. But why should they have to?

We have also recently seen Project Lift, a leadership programme which started in the NHS open its doors to social care staff, growing our leaders of the future and potentially opening doors across health and social care. In addition, the current campaign to encourage more people to work in the sector and the Adult social care reform programme both have potential to promote the value of social care.

And so in raising the profile, we raise the value. Today is International Women’s Day. The theme for 2020 is #EachforEqual a statement of ‘Collective Individualism’ pointing out that it is as individuals we challenge, but only together that we can achieve change. This is not simply a call to women, or even to create the conditions for a counter-movement calling for an International Men’s Day. In collective individualism we work together and for mutual benefit. In this industry we might use the words collaboration and co-production.

Equality brings health and wealth to whole communities. So I ask you to channel your inner Frida Kahlo or whom-ever your inspiration might be. Perhaps they are a care worker.

Share this message wide and if you feel as I do, turn your disappointment (and rage) into action. #EachforEqual is for all of us, but to achieve it we must recognise and raise the true value of social care incorporating the value of our care workers, managers and owners of all genders who devote their time with skill and compassion, and who inspire us every single day. #careaboutcare #independentcare 

Karen Hedge, National Director, Scottish Care 


News release: New research on the implementation of SDS for older persons care home

New research by Scottish Care, the representative body for Scotland’s independent social care services, indicates that there has been a failure in the implementation of the Social Care (Self-directed Support) Act for older people accessing nursing and residential care home provision. Scottish Care argues that this poses potential equality and human rights issues in their latest report which will be launched at a round table discussion event at Glasgow Caledonian University on Wednesday 12th February.

The Future of Self-directed Care in Scotland Round Table’ is hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University in collaboration with SIKE (Social Innovation Knowledge Exchange, an Eramus+ project), the University of Stirling and Scottish Care. This round table discussion seeks to collate insights from key stakeholders in order to generate a Briefing Paper for policymakers in government and local authorities on future directions in self-directed care in Scotland.

The report titled ‘Rights at home: the Scottish care home sector and Self-directed Support’ highlights the importance of measuring the extent of self-directed support for older persons care homes. However, statistics show that most individuals accessing care and support in care homes in Scotland are not been given their full rights under the self-directed support legislation:

  • 98% of care homes surveyed stated that none of their residents are in receipt of an SDS package.
  • 25% of care home residents were believed to had been given an assessment which identified personal outcomes under the SDS Act
  • 09% of the potential total of care home residents were in receipt of an SDS personal budget
  • 1% of care home residents in the survey were given the choice of available SDS Options

Dr Donald Macaskill, CEO of Scottish Care commented:

This research makes for sad and disturbing reading. It is quite clear that older adults in Scotland who find themselves moving into a care home are being denied their full rights under the Self-directed Support Act which is the main way people get social care and support in Scotland today. Five years on from the Act commencing older Scots are not being given the choice and control that others have. They are being treated as second-class citizens. This is wholly and utterly unacceptable and all stakeholders involved including national and local Government together with providers need to act on this as a matter of real urgency.

The unequal and discriminatory treatment of individuals on the grounds of service and age in the implementation of Self-directed Support where there is no justifiable and legitimate reason for this treatment is effectively a breach of the human rights of the individuals involved.