The social care review: if not now, when?
Earlier this month saw the publication of the eagerly anticipated Independent Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland.
It certainly did not disappoint in its aspiration to be honest, bold, and dare I say, even ambitious in some of its recommendations to the Scottish Government.
It’s interesting to see that the media has focused largely on the proposals for a national care service and seemingly overlooked what I think is by far the most radical element of the review: the idea that any social care reform in this country should be led by and in partnership with the people most affected by it!
A decade ago, when my husband was first diagnosed with a degenerative neurological condition, I struggled to navigate the bewildering social care system we found ourselves in.
It took an actual crisis and breakdown before we were offered any support – so yes, I absolutely welcome the change in narrative that the review proposes, particularly in relation to a renewed focus on prevention, instead of crisis management.
We must start viewing social care as an investment rather than a burden on society.
Most importantly, we need to start framing social care as a human right which enables people to live well and to have the same life opportunities as everyone else.
For anyone on the edge or in the midst of a crisis right now, time is the one thing that they really do not have
However, before we all start getting too excited about the aspirations of the social care review, I think it is probably worth taking a moment to acknowledge that for people who are most affected by the lack of social care support in their lives at the moment – this report won’t even have hit their radar.
Understandably, for many people with immediate support needs and their families, reading a set of recommendations about how their lives may potentially improve in the future is simply not a priority.
It is obviously going to take time for many of the recommendations of the review to be carefully considered, debated and then hopefully implemented.
Some of the recommendations will most likely require a change in legislation before they can be fully realised. But for anyone on the edge or in the midst of a crisis right now, time is the one thing that they really do not have.
Can we honestly afford to wait for the obligatory working groups to be set up, and for the debates and changes in legislation to take place, before we even begin to make a start on improving and addressing the social care inequalities that currently exist?
From both a moral and economic perspective, I don’t believe that we can wait – and nor should anyone have to.
Many of us have witnessed first-hand the impact that this pandemic has had for people with support needs and their families.
We have been inundated with stories, particularly from unpaid carers who are in urgent need of support for themselves and the people they care for.
So many carers are still reeling from the exhaustion, abandonment and isolation they have experienced since the country first went into lockdown.
These people require and deserve real financial, emotional and physical support right now, rather than just the promise of something better in the future.
None of us could have predicted a global pandemic, but we certainly should have been prepared for a scenario where services and support for disabled or older people could close down or be severely reduced.
When the country first went into lockdown last year, there was absolutely no back up, no contingency and no emergency plan that kicked in when these services shut down.
Instead, it was largely left to family members and friends to step in and provide vital care and support for older and disabled loved ones.
Almost a year later, and many of us – mainly women – have continued to provide that unpaid care without any additional support or a break from our caring roles.
Although the proposal for the right to respite is a very welcomed piece of reform, it is yet another change that we will most likely have to wait for until an amendment to the Carers (Scotland) Act is made.
There are many recommendations in the review that really shouldn’t require permission or a change in legislation to be implemented right now. People with support needs and their families need urgent help.
I mean, do we really need to wait for more legislation before people are able to work more collaboratively?
Do those in positions of power really need to wait for another set of standards before they are able to cede power and accept that people with support needs and unpaid carers should be equal partners in the planning, design and implementation of social care support?
Do we really need to wait for more guidance before people with support needs are allowed to have autonomy, control and choice over their own care budgets and lives?
We all knew, even before the review published its findings, that the current approach to delivering social care was simply not working for many of us.
So, why are we not doing more already to work as a collective and change the status quo? What exactly is it that we are all waiting for?
To echo the review’s own call to action: If not now, when? If not this way, how? And if not us, who?