It’s time to turn around homecare

The following is based on an address given yesterday at the Scottish Care, Care at Home and Housing Support Conference, ‘Care Revolution: Time to Act’ held In Glasgow.


I suspect I won’t be the only one in this room for whom the words of the song from Tracy Chapman were the wallpaper of their teenage years or twenties. First launched in 1988 ‘Talkin’ Bout a Revolution’ became the anthem of disenchanted and disaffected youth and social campaigners at a time of high unemployment, industrial unrest and growing poverty. It was a clarion call not just to be passive and talkative but to do something and to be someone.

The lyrics are illustrative of the whisper that becomes a shout for change:

Don’t you know

They’re talking about a revolution?

It sounds like a whisper

Don’t you know

Talking about a revolution?

It sounds like a whisper


Don’t you know

Talking about a revolution?

It sounds like a whisper


And finally the tables are starting to turn

Talkin’ ’bout a revolution

Yes, finally the tables are starting to turn

Talkin’ ’bout a revolution, oh, no

Talkin’ ’bout a revolution, oh, no

Talkin’ ’bout a revolution, oh, no

Many of you will know that I love words and languages and their root meanings and in my first language which is Scottish Gaelic the main word for revolution is ‘ar-a-mach’  and is similar to the Latin word revolvere which means  “a revolving,” “turn, roll back”.

All of these have the connotation of return and orientation and so I love the way in which Tracy Chapman‘s song uses the same metaphor that the tables are starting to turn …

Revolutions don’t necessarily mean throwing the baby out with the bath water, of engaging in violent and dramatic destruction and removal of the past. There is no need for any heads to be guillotined in the social care revolution that I want to suggest to you urgently needs to happen in today’s Scotland.

Going back to the way things used to be, a turning of time, is and can be revolutionary in itself and that’s what I think we need in social care not least in-home care we need a turning of the tables – we need a decision and a time to stop what we’re doing and rediscover the essence of what social care and home care is all about.

And why do most revolutions or renaissances or rediscoveries happen? – well usually because people or communities have simply had enough. They become tired of accepting the givenness of things, of settling for third or fourth best, of the status quo which limits and imprisons them.

Whether the civil rights cause in the United States, the disability rights movement of the1970s and 80s, the Dallits or Untouchables in India, – there is a time reached when people say enough – there has to be a better way.

And have we not got to that stage in terms of homecare and housing support in Scotland? Despite the warm rhetoric of political mantra and the delusion of massaged figures and budgets what we have arrived at is a state of affairs that cannot be deemed to be human rights based social care and cannot be seen to embed dignity in the lives of people.

What we have arrived at is a shameful abandonment of the essence of good social care which is about enabling people to be independent, to have control and to manage the living of their lives so that they reach their potential.

What we have arrived at is eligibility criteria set so high that you need to be close to death before you get a package of support, for which it will have taken you weeks and months to get an assessment organised. Then once you do you will get the bare minimum of support.

What we have arrived at is a system stripped of humanity, commissioners arranging an approach to care which is about providing maintenance not furthering life. Keep people alive but no more – and do it cheaper. Let us save money at the cost of living life to the full.

When someone in their nineties gets stripped of the care and support, she has had for 4 years; when someone who is imprisoned in their house by their mental illness has a care package removed with 2 days’ notice; when more and more workers are faced with the impossibility of packing all their compassionate care into 15 minute monitored time slots then …

what we have arrived at is a state of affairs which requires revolutionary change not just a tinkering or a slightly increased budget here and there – we need a re orientation and a rediscovery of the essence of who we are as one another related in our common humanity.

That’s why we need a care revolution and I’m sorry but I simply do not believe that the mechanistic reorientation of the system also known as the plans for the National Care Service will bring that revolution about.

But for a revolution to succeed we do not just need anger and frustration. We have that in abundance. We don’t just need a desire to change for the sake of change – but revolutions firstly succeed when you have a vision of what you want to become as an individual or as a society. And secondly, they succeed when causes are able to garner sufficient support so that there is a collective desire to change the way things happen.

And of those two starter ingredients we have the vision – we don’t need to search or look for it. It’s in the very description we have of social care at Scottish Care – it’s in our DNA – it’s about people being supported to lead the lives they want and need to – it’s in every report we have ever written about homecare.

Homecare as:

‘The enabling of those who require support or care to achieve their full citizenship as independent and autonomous individuals. It involves the fostering of contribution, the achievement of potential, the nurturing of belonging to enable the individual person to flourish.’

And how do we create a collective? – well for home care that means the coming together not just of those who work in the sector, not just organisations which deliver care and support, but all people in our community, not just those who receive care and support and their allies who are themselves drained and exhausted and so often without the energy to fight, to struggle for more than themselves and their loved ones.

We need Scotland to waken up – we need the tables to turn – we need a care revolution so that it becomes the concern of every person, every community, every politician and every individual who considers humanity to be of worth.

We have to stop fighting in our own patch, sometimes sniping at one another, we have to collectively come together and organise. We have the vision – we have the dream – it’s time to act – and the time is now.

But any journey needs strength especially to make that first step – to go outside of the known and venture towards an uncertain future.

I truly believe there is an inevitability that compassion will win out over contracted concern, that reality will replace rhetoric, that possibility can become the norm, that dreams and visions can become the familiar and the ordinary of our lives.

 One of my favourite singers who is very different to Tracy Chapman is the 1960s singer Judy Collins and one of her most poignant and beautiful songs was one that she sang having heard it first from Pete Seeger -a man who knew more than a bit about revolutions and change – who wrote the music to some very well-known ancient religious lyrics – You might also know the version by The Byrds.

To everything there is a season

To everything (Turn, turn, turn)

There is a season (Turn, turn, turn)

And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die

A time to plant, a time to reap

A time to kill, a time to heal

A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (Turn, turn, turn)

There is a season (Turn, turn, turn)

And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down

A time to dance, a time to mourn

A time to cast away stones

A time to gather stones together


To everything (Turn, turn, turn)

There is a season.


For social care and for homecare there has to be a season,  this is it,

a season of revolution, a return to care without calculation, to times when relationships mattered more than records, when compliance wasn’t a monitoring system but the relationship between supported person and carer.

a season for everything under the sun

the time is coming when the tables will turn


when the talk of revolution will result in change

because the season of compassion, the season of care, the season of regard, the season of prioritising support for all has surely to come.

Enjoy being the care revolution in season and out.


Donald Macaskill



Donald Macaskill