When I was growing up, I was often accused of being a dreamer – of spending too much time imagining a world of possibility that never seemed to come true. As I have aged, I suspect I dream less but I probably spend a lot of my time hoping and trying to make my dreams and visions into some sort of reality.
Last Tuesday I watched the four party political leaders in Scotland’s Parliament putting themselves forward as candidates for First Minister, albeit that there was an inevitable theatre around the coronation of Humza Yousaf. Later that day I was attending an event in the Scottish Parliament as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the community development organisation Outside the Box. During that parliamentary reception we heard from individuals who had struggled to be noticed and included because of discrimination against their race or because of a disability they had but with the support of Outside the Box they had discovered voice, direction and had addressed discrimination. It didn’t happen by accident but by action. The hope for a better Scotland is birthed by the hands of positive change.
As I sat there in parliament a place where every visitor is told that ‘this is your parliament’ I reflected back on watching that very building take shape and form years before, and of the words spoken, speeches made, and laws and policies articulated within its walls. It has been a momentous and historical week with the departure of our longest serving First Minister and a new incumbent embodying diversity. We have witnessed a new Cabinet with a majority of female ministers and in the case of Health and Social Care both a new Cabinet Secretary and Minister. A lot of change.
I could not help on that day as I sat in the Parliament and in the days since but think about one of my grandmother’s favourite Gaelic words ‘dòchas. Technically it means hope and in so many contexts she would often finish a sentence with the phrase ‘I hope so’. She didn’t use is as an expression of resigned fatalism or wishful thinking, no she used it as a commitment to make sure her aspiration was grounded in the action necessary to bring about its fulfilment. ‘Dòchas carries with it a sense of purposeful expectation, trust and reliance. It is that sense of determined hope which I want to briefly reflect upon here.
Over the last few weeks in this blog, I have written about some of the challenges facing the social care sector in Scotland. The challenge of a workforce which feels devalued and unappreciated because for doing a similar job in the NHS you are likely from today to be paid around 19.8% more. The challenge of a workforce continuing to expend its energy and creativity in care home and homecare and yet it does not feel fully appreciated or valued as the professional, registered and qualified individuals that they are. I have written about the urgent need to recognise social care as a sector of tremendous societal, economic and community value and the urgency of seeing social care as essential in its own right rather than just seen through a myopic lens which values the NHS above all else. So I have to say it was with disappointment that I read NHS Recovery in the job title of the new Cabinet Secretary – as if yet again social care and its need for recovery was marginalised and unrecognised.
In the last month my own organisation supported by numerous others has argued and campaigned for the urgent need for the whole of Scottish society to #careaboutcare and to #shinealight on the amazing women and men who work in social care the length and breadth of Scotland.
It has been a stimulating and inspiring month of March as I have heard and been told first hand of some of the amazing, pioneering, innovative and entrepreneurial work which social care providers and their staff are undertaking across the country – work that makes a real difference to older adults and communities every single day. Work that fosters personal independence and restores community.
We stand at a point in time with a new Government and new Ministers when the horizon is both one of possibility but also one of very acute and anxious challenge. I am weary of the fact that it feels as if some of us in social care have been arguing the same things for so long, and the lack of resource for our workforce and sustainable investment into provider organisations seems to go from bad to worse.
But just as last Sunday the clocks leapt forward we have the real opportunity to collectively work together to make a real difference.
The next few weeks will be critical for social care in Scotland. If we have the courage and political ambition, then we will overcome what appear to be insurmountable barriers to progress. If we do not collaborate and collectively find that direction of purpose then I fear we are on the edge of system collapse and real failure which will primarily affect those who are supported and cared, and also those who work in the sector and who operate services.
‘Dòchas in the words of my grandmother is a hope pregnant with possibility, an aspiration which carries within it an intentional energy. So in the coming days and weeks we must all, politician and provider, unpaid carer and supported person, frontline carer and social care nurse, commissioner and regulator, act in such a way to positively put the verbalised hope into reality. I really do hope so because it is only then that the dream and vision of a Scotland the cares becomes the lived reality of all and that we might finally achieve a social care sector which is valued, recognised, resourced and celebrated.
The Gaelic poet Myles Campbell expresses it well:
rionnag anns na speuran.
rocaid agus rionnag anns na speuran.
adhar làn rionnagan.
grian a’ deàrrsadh
translated into English:
star in the skies.
rocket and star in the skies.
sky full of stars.
Source: Translation from Ronald Black (ed.), An Tuil (Polygon, 1999), by permission of Birlinn Ltd