A Christmas Carol. Fiction, fact, or a morality lesson?


As we head towards the end of 2020, our Chief Executive, Lesslie Young, looks at how the year has been a stark reminder of how we have treated and continue to the treat the vulnerable in our society and the experience it has given us to shape the future of social care.

The days are shorter, the nights are longer and as we head towards the end of the year, we all tend to reflect.

This of course has been the most unusual year and not one to be remembered fondly. For so many reasons it bears scrutiny and should provide learning. But will that learning be put into practice?

Months of sacrifice. For some the sacrifices have been greater than others. Some have chosen to make no sacrifice at all.

We are still living with restrictions through the winter, continued difficult decision making, and with COVID-19 still calling the shots.

When I started to reflect, my starting point was not January or indeed March when real change started to impact us. I started years before.

This year, and how many have been treated, needed context. It was a stark reminder of how we have treated and continue treat the vulnerable.

How we treat those who have given us the opportunity to have so much of what we had and have lost, albeit temporarily. And how those who support and care for those people, and what they do for them, is consistently undervalued. How little has changed.


Living with more restrictions than most

The learning disabled, the elderly, those with life long and life limiting conditions have lived with more restrictions than most.

They have sacrificed more than most and yet, their voices remain unheard. Or is it those who need to listen simply are not?

This silenced, not silent and to a large extent ignored section of society are mainly those who live in social care settings.

These Mums, Dads, sons, daughters, and other much-loved family members have had little or no family contact since March.

Put at greater risk of catching COVID-19 due to the policy of discharging people with the virus into care homes and seeing, their isolation from those they love growing, long day by long day.

As I said in my last blog post, the Scottish Government’s £1 million fund for iPads in care homes is a welcome policy to attempt to try and connect people living in care homes with their families.

But it cannot be held up as a replacement to the warmth of a family member’s hand nor should it be heralded as the benchmark of good practice. It is a mere sticking plaster, a salve.


A time to celebrate?

For many people, Christmas is a time to gather with loved ones, feast and celebrate. This is true for all the other celebrations held dear to those who have had to change or indeed miss their religious, cultural celebrations such as Eid, Passover, and Diwali.

However, for many people, those celebrations and this Christmas will be their last. And they will have spent it or will spend it alone.

Reflecting on the last ten months especially, but years before, the failure to put people at the heart of policy, the broken promises, the false hopes, endless rhetoric and the sharp focus brought about as a result of COVID-19.

I feel the only conclusion I can come to is we need to apply greater pressure on decision makers to ensure a better social care provision for those who need it.

I start with the ghost of social care past which haunts us still. Carers, community support workers, care providers all undervalued and underfunded.

Local authorities squeezing margins until they disappear as does the provider, leaving the vulnerable even more so. The answer from government is always the same.

The money is provided, and local authorities must use their autonomy to determine how that money is best spent.

It would appear as more people are left vulnerable and wanting, care providers disappear at a rate of knots, it is not considered good use of money to spend it on the wellbeing of their communities.


Ghost of social care

To the ghost of social care present. This should represent generosity and good will. We have seen many examples of that from individuals, young and old alike, going to extraordinary lengths and efforts to raise money, raise awareness, be good neighbours and so much more.

Is this generosity of spirit, practical support and care going to be replicated by those agencies who have the opportunity and authority to do so?

Or with the public purse stretched, the realisation of the true financial cost of COVID-19 and the impact on the personal purse, are we going to experience the short-term memory I mentioned in an earlier blog.

I fear we have been for some time and the appreciation of what has been done for us, the lessons learned and the opportunity to use those experiences and that learning may not be utilised. That would be an unforgiveable waste.

That of course would bring us to the ghost of social care to come. If we do not utilise these opportunities, these lessons, the outlook is truly bleak.

Increased homelessness, more foodbanks, the learning disabled even more isolated and restricted, the elderly forgotten and lonely.


A Christmas Carol

First published in 1843 the novella, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was based on principles relevant then and just as relevant now, if not more so.

I am telling you nothing you do not already know. We cannot change history, but we can and must learn from it.

COVID-19 dictated much of the present but should not have been allowed complete control or be used as a scapegoat for entrenched problems which people have lived with for decades.

We can and must seize the opportunity this awful experience has given us to shape the future of social care.

None of this is going to be easy but nothing worth doing ever is.