As doors of all sizes, shapes, and colours open up across Scotland to welcome in the first foots of the year; as peat, log and paper kindle an open hearth, as hand and hug, food and drink foster hospitality and welcome, so we find ourselves standing at the brink of a new decade. What to say at such a point in a blog for the New Year?
It would be the folly of futility to try to prophesise what this decade will bring. Indeed, at its edge we are witnessing almost unapparelled times of political uncertainty and societal challenge and no little fear and discomfort. But in the spirit of the optimism and hope with which we traditionally greet the new year as Scots, I for one would want to be positive and optimistic for to be any other is to bring into life the darkness that risks our tomorrows. So, what of social care? I would like to imagine and hope that this will be a Decade of Care.
I imagine a decade where women and men who do the astonishing job of caring for others, whether as a family member or as a paid professional, will be recognised as the vibrant heart of our country not as is so often the case as a drain and drudge. Where they will be properly remunerated and resourced either by appropriate respite and support or by being paid a wage, which is not just about ‘living’ but about being valued and affirmed, being able to dream their own dreams and live out their own future.
I imagine a country which turns the tables on what is considered to be of fiscal value and sees that those who care for others, those in our people sectors as the true entrepreneurs and navigators of our nation’s future; where the economic value of social care is not just talked about but that we consciously choose as a society to invest in, to finance and support the innovation and growth of our care sector.
I imagine a decade where we will be able to shape the way in which technology can enable us to be better at caring, to be more present when we need to be, which frees people up to care and which reduces the drudge of the practical. The 2010s have seen enormous progress. It was that decade which brought us technology as diverse as the iPad, driverless cars, smart devices by the score and 3D printing. Who knows what the 2020s will offer. But I want to hope that all innovation will be rooted in an ethical and human rights framed understanding that commits to the human and the personal, to citizen autonomy and control over data; and for each of us, but especially those who require care and support, to be the directors and leaders of their lives and not actors to someone else’s script.
I imagine a society which finally takes seriously the environmental and natural challenges we are all going to have to address. A Scotland where we do not just leave it to our children to be the campaigners for our planet. Admittedly the care sector has much to do in this regard, but this decade will have to be one which reduces waste, replaces unnecessary use of plastics, transforms our use of energy and which makes being green a core part of what it means to care.
I imagine a society which does not just talk about human rights in pious platitudes and political catchphrases, but which acts to enshrine the rights of others at the heart of all we do and who we are. Where dignity, fairness, respect and choice are ethical values which are also underpinned by the robustness of legal recourse. Where we do not just talk the talk by passing great legislation in our Scottish Parliament but robustly enable change to happen through progressive work on issues like self-directed support, mental health legislative reform, palliative and end of life care and bereavement support, and every other piece of work that enables citizens to lead, removes power from vested social and political interest and truly democratises the way we do things.
So, I have no shortage of imagination as I stand on the edge of the decade – but that is not enough. Imagination has to be rooted in a determination to do different and be better. Imagining tomorrow starts with struggling with the issues of today.
For me in the work I do those struggles are against the discrimination of the old who are too often treated as if they are ‘has beens’ with nothing to say, contribute or change. It means challenging the cult of youth by recognising the mutuality of community, the inter-generational nature of belonging and the inter-dependency of all. It means challenging the easy complacency which inadequately resources and funds the costly task of care. It means the end to a naivety which thinks that quality care and compassion can be bought on the cheap and delivered on a shoestring. It means giving real power to citizens and real choice, not the creating of one-size fits all solutions or the drawing back of choice on the questionable presumption that Mother State knows what is best for you. It means shouting down the casual excuses of ‘It’s Aye been done like that’ ‘It’ll no work here’ or ‘We’ve tried it afore.’ – these three sisters of Scottish passivity – which are holding back so much across Scotland that is innovative, progressive, challenging and new.
To imagine a decade of care is to imagine a time where all those with something to say are heard and listened to; where those who struggle to be heard because of disability or self are able to find voice and recognition; where the scars of mental health are recognised and reshaped regardless of age; where the emptiness of a lonely life is populated with the presence of others; where personal purpose and meaning unleash the shackles of addiction and dependency; where the stranger is seen not as an outsider but as the one whose presence shapes our communities; where the contribution of those who are migrant and new citizens is celebrated and valued; where we no longer debate difference as the means of creating identity but where inclusion and openness foster belonging and citizenship.
I hope with others to reach a 2030 having contributed my own small share to creating a Decade of Care.
Bliadhna mhath ùr agus deichead ùr sona
Happy New Year and Happy New Decade.
Dr Donald Macaskill
CEO, Scottish Care