Our Chief Executive, Lesslie Young, looks at how the over-dependency on unpaid carers taking on so much responsibility must come to an end, as does the undervaluing and underpayment of those working in the care sector.
For many, the beginning of a new year is a time for reflection. Plus, whilst not completely free from the pandemic, there is a degree of optimism creeping into some conversations, around how we move forward.
It may, for some, be too early to look at the opportunities the new year may bring, and for even more, it may seem pointless. They see no change, no progress, no opportunities. Quite simply they just see more of the same or even worse.
For those who have chosen the provision of care as their vocation and those who are one of nearly one in five unpaid carers, goodwill, selfless compassionate acts for others, and recognition of the needs of others is a full-time commitment.
The pandemic has, as you would expect, increased the number of people caring for family members resulting in there being over one million unpaid carers in Scotland.
Generally, unpaid carers are relatives. They care because they love. Equally, those choosing to work in the care sector are dedicated, committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for those they support, increasingly in the most challenging of circumstances.
This love, dedication, and commitment is so often exploited. Where family carers manage, many to their own detriment, they are left to carry on. Paid carers remain underpaid. Both are undervalued.
Slashed budgets, over-stretched staff, and underfunded services, including social services itself, have created a system that relies and is dependent upon, people going above and beyond for their loved ones and/or playing on the dedication and commitment of those paid carers.
Most of us, in whatever category would, and do, step up when the time comes.
However, this is not how social care should be delivered. I would also suggest those working in social services often feel helpless to provide the services they signed up to provide. No one really enters a career in social care with the aim to provide a substandard service or to leave people wanting.
Families who can cope, by relying on loved ones to fill the shoes of a carer, are regularly assessed as not requiring assistance from the state.
This reliance on the goodwill of family, the dedication and commitment of paid carers have reached and, in many cases, breached its threshold, leaving all providing care at breaking point. Resulting in those being cared for receiving inadequate care and even being left at risk.
The definition of goodwill is a friendly, helpful, or cooperative feeling or attitude. Even if this were how I would define the premise of quality social care, and it is not, it is most definitely not seasonal. Quality social care should be a constantly reliable service evidenced and delivered, all year round, according to need.
National Care Service
If this is to be truly realised, the over-dependence on unpaid carers taking on so much responsibility must come to an end, as does the undervaluing and underpayment of those working in the care sector.
However, the answer does not solely lie with the government. Society has an important role to play too.
None of this is free or cheap. It will impact the public purse and in turn our personal purse. It is at that point we will see how much goodwill society really has.
Will we continue to have only a season of goodwill? Will we opt to ensure the right thing is done and ensure quality social care is there for us all and when we need it?