Scottish Care issues letter to the First Minister

Today (6 July), Scottish Care has issued a letter to the First Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport and all leaders of the oppositions parties regarding a National Day of Mourning.

Within the letter, CEO Dr Donald Macaskill calls for a National Day of Mourning and Remembrance for all those impacted by Covid-19 in Scotland.

You can read the letter here.

For further information or to request an interview with Dr Macaskill, please email [email protected]

Collective Care Future: survey on care practice

Second theme: care practice - share your views and experiences

The first phase of the Collective Care Future programme is now underway, focused on understanding the pandemic experience across many different areas of practice both in care homes and care at home.

If you have experience of working or connecting with care homes or care at home services during COVID-19, we invite you to take part in this survey series to share your experience. We’d love to hear from care providers, front line staff, relatives and loved ones of people supported, individuals in care settings and those working in roles in other sectors or parts of the sector who work alongside care services. You can choose to take part in as many or as few of the surveys as you wish.

This week the survey is focused on the theme of ‘Care Practice’. In this theme we are interested to explore the ways in which the delivery of care and support has changed, across areas such as dementia, palliative and end of life care, assessment and care planning.  It includes ways of delivering care which you may have adopted or been aware of previously and those which you have experienced for the first time during the pandemic.

The survey has 4 sections: Impact on Care Practice, Regulation & Guidance, Outcomes & Priorities, and Future Care Practice.

Access survey here:

If you would like to see the questions in advance to help you complete the survey fully, you can download a PDF of the survey here - download survey questions.

You can also download Word copies of the survey to complete by hand or to distribute to others - download Word survey questions.

We would appreciate your support in circulating the survey as widely as possible across your networks, including to any individuals who access care and support and their families who may like to share their experiences. 

If you don’t feel that you have had direct working experience with the independent care sector during the pandemic but you would like to be involved in the second phase of the programme, please let us know at [email protected] and we will be in contact in due course.

Thank you to those who have participated in the first survey on Technology.  If you haven't done so yet, you can still access the survey at:

We need a National Day of Mourning and Remembrance – a personal reflection

Today is the 4th July and memories of a few years ago when I was in Boston where events changed the history of the United States of America live on in my mind. It is a special day for many citizens of the United States and later today I will no doubt chat to American family as they celebrate the 4th. Closer to home it is a day which in the past week has built in the public consciousness with a growing clamour in England around the opening of pubs! And that’s been hard for so many.

As I have mentioned over the last few months I receive a lot of correspondence from folks who have kept in touch with me during the pandemic. One of those wrote to me this week about how hard it has been reading the newspapers and seeing the news on TV in the build-up to what has become this self-styled ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Super Saturday.’ For her it is a day of real insensitivity because like countless thousands she is one of those who have lost her husband to Covid19, her husband being one of the people who died as a result of the virus in a care home.

She is not alone. Many have spoken, written or messaged me from their places of hurt. They have found it hard to reconcile a return to ‘normal’ with the loss and emptiness which is a constant ache in their waking moments and restless nights. They have spoken of the way in which they feel as if they have been put to the side in their grieving as the world rushes by in its race back to normality. They have spoken about becoming the invisible grieving, those whose story is an uncomfortable and constant reminder of the vicious pain and raw absence that this virus has and is causing.

Mourning is an essential part of the rhythm of life – it’s moves are individual and it’s actions are determined by our own character. For some there is a desire to be busy and active, using routine and familiarity to contain our lostness;  for others a need to withdraw and hold pain close; for yet others there is consolation and comfort in the presence of family and friends. But the problem has been that we have been prevented or blocked in so much of the ways in which we traditionally mourn and grieve. Mourning has become unnatural and painfully hard during the pandemic with all the restrictions on funerals, on being together, or on simply being free to wander in our hurt.

As things begin to ease through lockdown then it will undoubtedly become easier for people to reconnect and nurture their own grieving. But I think we all of us have to recognise that those who have lost someone to Covid19 need to be supported and upheld by the wider community. There is something painfully distinctive about losing someone in and to the pandemic and we need to acknowledge that and take action to address these issues. This in part has started already through the resourcing of more focussed grief and bereavement support. But increasingly I feel that this support and recognition needs to be broader and wider.

The messages I have been getting are from people who feel as if society is in danger of creating a stigma around Covid19 and especially around dying from Covid19. We saw a similar trend after the Spanish Flu in the 1920s. They speak of the bereaved unable or unwilling to say to others that their relative has died from the virus. I very much hope that those are a minority, but I also fear that we need to recognise better  the reality of these feelings than we are doing.

Whether you have been bereaved because of Covid19 or someone has died during the lockdown period I believe that there needs to be not solely a restoration of personal grieving support but that we now need to do something at a community and national level. My concern is that if we do not do so there will be far too many with unresolved and blocked grieving which will only serve to cause hurt and harbour pain into the future.

So today I am calling for a National Day of Mourning and Remembrance  for all those impacted by Covid19 in Scotland. I am asking all Members of the Scottish Parliament to agree in principle to the idea of such a day.

  • A day to mourn all those who have died in care homes, in hospital and in community
  • A day to mourn all those who have died during Lockdown for whom we have been unable to grieve and remember as we might have done
  • A day to remember all those who have worked tirelessly in the care of others sharing compassion, giving professionalism and sacrificial service.
  • A day to remember all those who have had their lives changed and turned upside down by this virus.

I am not naming a day, but I think we need to as a community identify the need to have such a day in the future when we can be together to focus on those we need to remember. We need to create a point in the horizon ahead to which those who are lost in their grief can find the energy to pull themselves toward in the hope that society will hear their story, will listen to their loss and will be silent in remembrance.

We need to have a day when in silence and in action, in country and in city, in streets and in homes people have the opportunity to pause and reflect for from such comes healing and renewal both individually and as a community.

Above the din and noise of rushing back to a normal future we must give space and place for people to remember, to picture their loved ones and to cradle a moment in time which is theirs to grieve. We owe them no less.

After the silence of loss, the memories come, the tears fall, the sadness echoes and  mourning and remembrance sounds.

Donald Macaskill

Latest blog from our Workforce Lead

The importance of capturing workforce reflections when planning for the future of care

The social care sector is heading towards a period of reflection, that is not to say that the battle against Covid-19 is over for them and care homes in particular would tell you that they are still fighting on the front line.  Managers and staff are understandably anxious over any reemergence of the virus and its impacts for their residents.  Discussions are ongoing over the safest possible way to emerge from lockdown and to have that successful balance between safety measures and the real concern of the impact from lockdown and social distancing on those they care for.

However, we are starting to evaluate what care looks like now and how it will continue to be delivered in the coming months and years.  The reflection that is needed is for policy makers to take the time to really understand the social care sector and its workforce which has been missing in the past when policies have been formed.  This has resulted in the sector feeling that decisions are made that are not reflective of their experience, knowledge, and day to day roles.  That is why it is imperative that this time the learning comes from front line staff and is shaped and formed by those who have already developed innovative ways of delivering care services within new and extremely strict guidance around infection control, wearing PPE and social distancing.

For many years we have talked about the importance of upskilling the workforce, creating new ways of learning and development and sharing of good practice which is of course extremely important however we must recognise that a great deal of that experience and knowledge is now held by the workforce particularly around dementia and palliative and end of life care.  Managers of services, social care nurses and care and support workers who are providing care for those with complex dementia and with palliative care needs on a daily basis.  They are hugely aware of the challenges of their roles and in their understanding of the individuals they support are able to provide high quality and tailored person-centered care.

We talk about care inductions and the wide variety of ways in which providers train and develop new staff members with the assumption that once an induction has been undertaken the staff member is then ready and able to work.  Indeed, this is one of the qualifying reasons that the role of care worker sits on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RFQ) at level 2.  Unskilled staff are defined as those who require less than two to three months training prior to commencing a role and this is the definition that is used to describe front line care workers.  This cannot be further from the truth which can be clearly evidenced in the staff mobilisation plans that have been developed in response to Covid-19.

Initially in March when a group was set up to discuss how best to support staffing levels and the social care workforce it was decided that SSSC would facilitate a recruitment portal alongside the portal being developed by NES for the NHS workforce returners.  This was with a view to getting staff back into the sector quickly and to remove some of the difficulties and barriers of recruitment for providers while they were under huge pressure responding to the pandemic. This portal has been successful in that it set out to contact recent leavers of the sector, encourage them to come back into care, carry out the necessary preemployment checks and support the social care sector during the crisis.  What was less successful was the ability of providers to access staff with the right levels of experience and knowledge that was required to fill these positions.  The care home sector has seen the greatest impact of Covid-19 for a variety of reasons that I will not get into here however what has become clear is that it is not possible for staff to receive a short induction and commence work in a highly complex care setting such as a nursing care home.

The level of knowledge and skills that are required cannot be replaced with a week of training and the pathways that were subsequently created to deal with staff shortages came from bank staff at the NHS health boards and other care providers.  Local networks provided much needed connections between care providers for example care at home staff were redeployed into care homes to provide the backfill support that was needed when staff were absent.  This utilised staff who were already working in the sector and had a level of skill and experience that was required when supporting individuals with complex health needs and dementia support.

This lack of understanding of the social care sector and the assumptions that are made around the skill set of staff has been hugely detrimental to the recruitment and retention of the workforce that is needed.  A lot of consideration has been placed on the difficulties of recruitment including the lack of decent pay, poor job security and poor terms and conditions all of which is true however this is also against a situation where the job itself is highly skilled with a great deal of responsibility which still goes unrecognised.  SSSC data shows large numbers of new staff leaving the sector within the first six months as they realise that the role is complex and requires a great deal of learning and development.  New staff coming into the sector must wait six months before applying to register with SSSC due to the recognition of a high percentage of leavers within that time frame.

The high level of staff vacancies and the pressure on care providers to recruit much needed staff has led to this message that individuals can walk into a care role and be ready for work shortly thereafter.  This is clearly not the case and even when applicants can demonstrate the understanding and importance of person-centered values there is still a great deal of practical skill that must be learnt.  This is actually the best case situation as practical skills take time but certainly can be taught, what is much more difficult is obtaining staff with the right attitude and emotional intelligence skills such as motivation, compassion and empathy that are vital for this role.  In addition, as providers are taking on staff who require greater support and development this requires increased supervision and mentoring from experienced staff to ensure that the quality of care being delivered remains high.   

The nature of care and the complexities of individuals needs often mean that care staff work in pairs and this enables the employer to match new staff with experienced staff to give that ongoing support and learning while recruiting the workers they need.  This demonstrates the ways in which care providers have maximised the use of their existing staff to support new staff and provide ongoing mentoring to pass on experience where possible.  If the sector is going to become more attractive to younger workers and grow the workforce to the numbers of people that we will require to work in care in the future this must be taken into account and the necessary support and development should be available along with the funding required. 

The Fair Work report gave five dimensions that are important to individuals when contemplating and choosing their work and career.  These include; effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect.  Previous labour market surveys have shown that social care employees give fulfilment as one of the main reasons they work and remain in the sector.  We can also see from SSSC intelligence that there are huge opportunities for career progression within the sector and a great deal of staff movement between the different areas of the register show a high percentage of upwards promotion with care workers moving on to become supervisors and supervisors becoming care managers.  However, we also know that the workforce in general feel that they do not have a voice, their contributions to policy making that would work for them is low and they certainly on many occasions do not have job security or are treated with respect in their professional capacity.

It is these areas that must be changed in order to build the social care workforce of the future.  Those who are in positions of making policy and decisions must revaluate and speak with the workforce providing the care and learn from their experience if we wish to reach the highest level of care possible.

It is imperative that we find a structured way in which to define the so called “softer skills” that we have seen are so important particularly during the confines of lockdown and social distancing where care and support workers have provided that much needed end of life support and comfort when families have been unable to do so.  That is a skill and it is something that many would be unable to do effectively to give that comfort when needed.  We must also ensure that in the decisions being made for the future around keeping individuals safe that we do not lose sight of the importance of caring for that individual and what makes their life worthwhile to them. 

Therefore, we come to the new normal that faces social care workers, the restrictions on movement, the additional personal protective equipment requirements that are affecting both staff and service users and the increased infection prevention control measures now in place.  As a result of the pandemic there is a greater understanding of the role of social care and its impact and benefits on communities and the people being supported within them.  This must now be taken forward and with that greater respect in mind it is imperative that the workforce is involved in these important conversations.  Staff need to be asked what has been helpful and what has worked during the crisis and then time should be taken to understand these measures so that we can replicate these where possible.  These conversations must be meaningful, we cannot ask staff to give of their even more precious time for a tick box exercise and so that people can reassure themselves that they did consult with the sector and involve front line workers.  These must be conversations where real change is going to be actioned, where respect for the skills and knowledge of the workers must be acknowledged and the changes be driven by the workforce.  We can do this by reviewing what changes to practice have already been implemented to look at what has been working for both staff and those they support.  It is very clear that while policy makers have been talking the social care workforce has been creating changes that they can work within and is still in line with the many iterations of “helpful” guidance that has been published for them to follow.

Social care has certainly increased its number of allies and supporters over the last three months including individuals from within the NHS and our wider communities that can see the amazing work that goes on both in care homes and in people’s homes where they are supported.  The general public has had a greater understanding of social care and what is actually required in the role due to the increased profile the sector has been experiencing.  We must not lose this opportunity to build on this now, to amplify the voice of social care and to build on the promises that have been given to these essential key workers of their importance and contribution to society and the economy that has been for so long overlooked.

Caroline Deane

Workforce Policy & Practice Lead



The British Institute of Human Rights: letter to Equalities & Human Rights Committee

Scottish Care, alongside other colleagues and organisations, has co-signed a letter today (2 June) by the British Institute of Human Rights. This letter was sent to the Scottish Parliament, Equalities and Human Rights Committee to raise our human rights concerns of the use of Emergency Powers in Scotland without transparent communications and robust monitoring. 

You can read the letter here:​

UK Immigration Policy & Impact on Scotland Report – July update

The Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Migration and Population has updated their report which looks at how the new UK immigration policy impacts on Scotland.

The report warns that the proposed new immigration system could halve the number of people coming to Scotland, which risks labour shortages in key sectors.

The new immigration requirements mean that migrants from outside the EU will need a job offer with a minimum salary threshold of £25,600. This would mainly affect female migrants, who will only be able to access around 37% of available jobs.

Previous research indicates that 53% of roles filled by migrants in Scotland earn less than £25,000 – including up to 90% of jobs in the care sector.

Dr Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive Officer of Scottish Care commented:

“There have been few individuals who have more dedicated their lives to the fight against Covid19 than those working in frontline social care roles across Scotland. We know that a significant number of these women and men come from the European Economic Area.

This independent report shows that the proposed UK immigration policy risks shutting the door on the ability of social care providers to recruit talented, skilled and dedicated workers from Europe and elsewhere.

The proposed lower salary threshold of £25,600 simply fails to recognise that the vast majority of those working in social care in Scotland earn less than this figure.

Social care providers are deeply anxious that at a time of very real threat to the sustainability of the sector in Scotland that we are at the point of risking a substantial reduction in the ability to freely recruit from Europe and elsewhere. This is frankly policy devoid of practicality, ignorant of implication, and hugely damaging to our ability to protect and sustain lives at a time of pandemic threat.

I urge the UK Government to give serious consideration to the reform of their proposals, to appreciate the distinctive needs of Scottish social care providers and to prevent the damaging consequences which will inevitably ensue were this policy to be implemented.”

The report can be found here:

Care Home Day 2020 – 15 July

Care Home Day is taking place this year on Wednesday 15 July.

This day is a largely online event which aims to raise awareness and promote care homes. We hope to share good news stories to bust myths about care homes and recognise the role they play in communities.

We understand that the Covid-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone, and during this time, events like Care Home Day may not seem significant. But this makes it even more important that we share positive stories to shine a light on social care and the care home sector. This is the perfect opportunity to showcase the amazing work that staff have been doing not only during this pandemic but all the time.

The theme of Care Home Day is ‘Care Community’. You can help us commemorate the day by sharing any good news stories, resources, projects blogs or an example of an innovative practice which shows:

  • Creating a sense of community within and around care homes
  • Fostering relationships with local communities
  • Health and wellbeing of residents and staff
  • Person-centred care
  • Staff supporting each other and residents
  • The local contributions of care homes, staff and residents to their communities and vice versa
  • Care homes as essential parts of the health and social care community

As part of the theme, we encourage care home providers to consider doing some sort of virtual activity during the day between residents, staff, families and the community. If you do decide to take part in any activities, please remember to share them with us on social media.

Please share and get involved on Twitter using the hashtag #carehomeday20


Who cares for the carers? – new nursing blog for June

Who cares for the carers?

This is a term we have heard mentioned often over the years, but what is the answer?

Back in 2010, we saw the Caring Together Carers Strategy published, promising support and recognition for the role unpaid carers provide, building on the recommendations made within the early Care 21 report: The Future of Unpaid Care in Scotland.

Most recently in 2019 NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) published new draft guidance which aims to improve the wellbeing of adults who provide unpaid care for people over 16 years old. The recommendations made tasked the local authorities and health and social care partnerships (HSCP) to identify how they provide support to carers. In the main, this was to assure that they would direct people to the appropriate financial, social and emotional resources that are available.

This month saw Carers’ Week celebrated and at no other time was this more poignant.

New figures show that 392,000 became unpaid carers in Scotland in a matter of weeks, caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends during the pandemic.

This is on top of the 729,000 unpaid carers in Scotland who were already caring before the outbreak, bringing the total to 1.1 million.

Throughout the pandemic, we have celebrated the contributions of all health and social care staff but sadly there was not the same celebration provided for informal carers, with many having had to continue to manage with the limited supports available during the lockdown, but at what cost?

Being an informal carer may sometimes be a choice and can be very rewarding, but for many, it simply is a result of circumstance where people are left feeling duty-bound to step up and take care of their loved one. Some people may feel emotionally pressured whilst others simply do not wish to involve others. It is therefore important that we advocate where possible for those who feel powerless, who feel that they have no voice and that their concerns are not being heard. Despite recommendations, many continue to feel they are not listened to, which may make some reluctant to ask for help.

This undertaking is difficult enough when you are supported in this role but for a significant number of people, they simply are trying their best in an extremely difficult situation and often at a huge detriment to themselves emotionally, physically, financially and psychologically.

As the age of our population increases so does the age of those finding themselves in a caring role. We recognise that promoting healthier lives and living longer increases the possibility of caring duties.

Older people, some even retired themselves may have to look after their parents, who will be living to significant old age, as well as their own partners and perhaps even caring for grandchildren.

As time goes on, if no services are involved in supporting the care needs, the carers can often experience burnout which can result in finally asking for some help or for some making the difficult decision not to carry on.

Sadly sometimes the first that services realise someone is in a caring role is when either the carer or one they are caring for becomes unwell and appears at hospital.

Unfortunately, this was something I witnessed far too often over the years as a nurse and as a social work manager within the hospital, a sharp reminder that we are continuing to fail the most vulnerable people within our communities when you see an elderly man has lost his life and his wife that he cared for having to be placed in care. There are too many invisible vulnerable people within our neighbourhoods. We must promote the need to ensure people’s wishes are adhered to and facilitate the use of the power of attorney and welfare and financial guardianship to avoid the sad indignity that results when these protective measures have not been addressed. Having a relative sit for months in a hospital bed because they have no capacity and no legal rights to place someone in a homely setting is a real injustice.

As we move on from the impact of the pandemic this may be the case for many, as we have noted the traumatic effects of being confined as a carer during the lockdown, highlighting the responsibilities in caring for someone you love with limited resources and lack of social interaction.

We know that respite for some allows that time out, to recharge batteries to continue, however respite is not accessed by all for a number of reasons, with some feeling they are failing the person they care for, or that the person being cared for would become distressed at the thought of it.

This highlights the importance of firstly to offer this resource and secondly to ensure that the respite experience is one that gives benefit to both the carer and the person requiring care.

Respite care in Scotland has thankfully now changed and does not now necessarily mean the person has to leave their home, which provides greater flexibility. I can recall a young father who had a degenerative condition who simply wanted to allow his wife and sons a break but to have respite in his own home. Unfortunately, bureaucracy prevented this at that time and that sense of failure stays with you. Everyone should have the right to have care around the personal outcomes, especially with a life-limiting condition.

Older carers who are looking after someone with dementia can also find it difficult to cope with the changes in the personality of their loved one. People with dementia can become easily frustrated, aggressive, and suspicious of other people. This can be extremely damaging to the carer’s emotional wellbeing. We can all think of someone who has experienced this distress.

In 2015, an estimated 47 million people were living with dementia throughout the world, with this number expected to triple by 2050. Several studies have highlighted respite support is an unmet need for people caring for someone with dementia, this may be due to limited specialist places who offer respite, alongside the difficulties around this being communicated to the carer, and at times the carer’s inability to seek this information out. In addition, as mentioned earlier respite may not cause further distress and behavioural upset.

During the pandemic, this may have been compounded by a reduction in social work assessments, alongside some councils making the decision to change the criteria for access to care, which left many without additional support and only limited new care packages, with families requiring to step. Closure of daycare facilities has been viewed as a particular hit for many carers who have previously relied on the respite these services provides.

Scots who have started caring since the outbreak may have been able to simply because they were shielding or furloughed. We know many were new to this but some are also juggling paid work alongside their caring responsibilities, highlighting the need for working carers to be supported as they return to work. Estimates show that the care provided by friends and family members to ill, frail or disabled relatives is equivalent to £119 billion every year.

It is without question that services could not manage the demand if informal carers did not exist.

The six charities supporting Carers Week – Carers Scotland, Age UK, Carers Trust Scotland, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness – promoted the need for further reform to happen which recognises and raises awareness of the role unpaid carers are playing during the pandemic and ensure they are supported through it, and beyond.

One success, however, was the recognition of unpaid carers as key workers with the right to access testing.

As reported by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers 65% of older carers have long term health problems or a disability themselves, with 69% saying that being a carer has had an adverse effect on their mental health. Older carers also report that their role makes it hard to find time for social life and isolates them from friends. We must also acknowledge that illness and disability in old age can create a large financial burden for some people. Carers may have to find the additional money to pay for specialist care or necessary equipment.

Over the next 30 years, the number of carers will require to increase by 3.4 million (around 60%).  Much has been spoken about this over the years but as carers become older themselves the ability to cope is likely to decrease significantly and result in crisis situations. Contingency planning and the need for more investment in community capacity building must be at the forefront of social reform.

As we acknowledge the fact that services will need to look different moving forward it is fundamental that we ensure that we don’t forget those within our communities who have undoubtedly been affected by the pressures of COVID and lockdown.

We need to move away from crisis management to avoid the unnecessary and distressing results that bring for carers and their families. People should continue to have choice and control and remain within their own homes for as long as possible even if they have 24 hr care needs.

The whole criteria of assessment of need, needs to be reviewed to ensure clarity and intrinsically have a preventative measure to avoid further failures in the future.

We must ensure greater recognition of the responsibilities carers are under ensuring their health, wellbeing and personal protection, especially as there is a significant potential risk of a second wave, bringing with it an additional loss of lives, as we move into the flu season.

We must advocate for reform and ensure personalisation, equality, respite and support that has a direct benefit to carers health and well -being or we are undoubtedly failing this country’s unsung heroes.

Jacqui Neil

Transforming Workforce Lead for Nursing

Stage 2 Reintroduction of care home visiting – Infographic

Following last week’s announcement on the phased reintroduction of care home visits, Scottish Care has developed an infographic with details on Stage 2.

Stage 2 will begin from 3 July – care homes with no Covid-19 cases or which have been Covid-19 free for 28 days will be able to allow outdoor visiting. This phase of visiting will include a single nominated visitor, who will be required to wear a face-covering for the duration of the visit. Physical distancing, hygiene and other appropriate safety measures should also be in place.

The infographic and guidance are available to view below. We hope that care home providers, staff and family members will find this useful.