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Carers’ issues a hot topic in Scottish election

Note: This is a joint blog from Lynn Williams, Fiona Collie and Claire Cairns who have been leading the National Carer Organisation Election Campaign in Scotland

We are moving into the final days of the election campaign in Scotland and the issues affecting carers and young carers have become a hot topic. Over the last few weeks carers’ organisations have worked hard to ensure that carers and young carers alike have had a chance to question candidates and influence parties’ thinking. Through the press, through on line media and face to face with candidates, carers and young carers have been heard loud and clear on what matters most to them and to their families.

This election marks a turning point for carers; every party has in some form or another directly recognised their contribution with a string of manifesto pledges made which seek to improve carers’ and young carers lives.

Claire Cairns, Fiona Collie and Lynn Williams

Launching the Carers Manifesto at the Scottish Parliament

We very much welcome specific pledges which seek to involve carers and young carers at the very heart of Government in Scotland. These commitments include Scottish Labour’s pledge to install a Cabinet level Carers’ Champion who can lead and work across all policy areas in Government. The party is also pledging to set up a Carers’ Summit to enable a Scottish Labour Government (or coalition administration involving Labour) to shape policies and decisions affecting carers’ lives (link to Labour party pledges to follow).

The SNP have pledged to deliver an annual Carers’ Parliament to give carers and young carers a direct say in the work of the Government and the Scottish Parliament. http://manifesto.votesnp.com/carers.

If realised, any one of these commitments will give carers and young carers a voice in shaping decisions that affect their lives at the highest levels of Government.

Other parties such as the Scottish Lib Dems are looking to extend the rights that carers have and improve local service delivery. http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/files/SLD2011manifesto.pdf.

Labour join the Lib Dems in pledging to investigate a right to respite for carers. http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/uploads/938e3455-1814-0b84-e115-8ddec3a327b5.pdf

Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives have costed a substantial investment in additional respite and many of the smaller parties have made a range of commitments to carers. http://www.scottishconservatives.com/downloads/scottish-conservative-manifesto-2011.pdf

Carers’ issues are indeed one of this election’s hot topics. But one commentator in the press recently said that manifestos are not worth the paper they are written on – and that might well be the case.

But as part of Scotland’s Carers Organisations we are making our own pledge to you – that we will work together tirelessly to bring parties to account whether in Government or opposition on the pledges they have made. We will continue to work directly with Ministers and MSPs in opposition to build on what has already been achieved for Scotland’s carers; we are also already planning for the Scottish Local Elections next year – service delivery locally is a key concern.

So there is much to look forward to and much still to do. Please continue to work with us to help make the lives of Scotland’s carers and young carers the best that they can be – to ensure that their contribution is truly recognised. Our Scottish Carers’ Manifesto – shaped by carers and young carers – will continue to be the basis for our campaigning work at national and local level. You can also continue to have your say on our ‘Carers Votes Count’ Facebook pages.

To the 5th May and beyond!!

Lynn, Claire and Fiona On behalf of Scotland’s National Carer Organisations

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May 2, 2011 Posted by | General Election, Scotland | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scottish Party Conferences and Carers

Note: The following post has been contributed by Lynn Williams, the Policy Officer for Scotland at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

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After the Conferences…Well, the Scottish Party Conference season is over (a big ‘phew’ from me!!) and we take our first steps on the road to the Scottish Budget and Election 2011.

So what happened and how did carers fare?

The answer is not very well…so far.  Political parties in Scotland are only beginning to make policy announcements.   Carers were mentioned by the Scottish Labour Party.

Tasneem and Brenda – two carers from Glasgow who spoke at the recent Cross Party Group

The Scottish Lib Dems have included a commitment to carers in their pre manifesto document and we are continuing to work with their manifesto team to ensure that carers are fully recognised.

The SNP did not make any policy commitments about carers at their conference but a recent meeting with the SNP manifesto team generated some interesting ideas to benefit unpaid carers and young carers.  This includes looking at ways in which carers might be better supported in employment.  Also, a meeting with the Scottish Conservative shadow health team last month was productive and positive.

It’s too early to say at this stage if and how carers will be recognised in each party’s manifesto, but we continue to work with all the parties to ensure this happens.

So we look ahead to the budget and beyond to next May’s election….

A National Care Service?

Influencing party manifestos is all well and good, but it is what happens beyond the election that matters. 

If Labour gets into power next year, the new government will seek to introduce a National Care Service within the lifetime of the next Parliament (2011 – 2015). The aim in doing so would be to end the postcode lottery of social care provision, bringing together health and social care so that “no-one falls through the gaps” and that the focus is “on the person needing care.”

Did I miss the word carer in there somewhere?  Yes, I think I did.

Whilst no one would argue against the laudable aim of tackling the complicated infrastructure of support and the disconnect that exists between health and social care, is a NATIONAL service the way to do it?

As I lie awake at 4am in the morning (something which I do quite often) I have been thinking about this proposal:

  • Will it tackle the existing gaps and overlaps in existing provision?
  • Will it offer more effective recognition and support of carers?
  • Would the service lead to more effective working between the NHS and social care provision in Scotland.

Scotland is a small enough country to enable a national service to work; but, it’s hard to say anything concrete about this proposal without any more detail. And whatever form it takes, it cannot work without placing unpaid carers and young carers at its heart.  I think there is a missing link here….

Another point to make – “national” is not always better. It can be less quick to respond and the needs of the individual can be lost; it can be bureaucratic; it can also be more costly as layers of delivery and management develop over time. 

The last thing that concerns me is timescale – Mr. Gray and Ms. Baillie committed to delivering the new service during the lifetime of the next Parliament.  Whatever the benefits, opportunities – and challenges – of this proposal, the creation of a National Care Service won’t happen quickly enough to help carers now as they experience local cuts to services and changing eligibility criteria for respite and short breaks. It won’t happen quickly enough for local Carers’ Centres who are already struggling to meet massively increased demand on standstill budgets.

Another issue relates to social care procurement and plans within Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley local authorities to look at merging specific functions such as social care.  Should this go ahead, there would be substantial impact on a significant number of carers and their families.  But bigger still, the national care service would, I guess, have a significant procurement role.  Would the focus be on quality or cost?  How would that benefits the lives of carers in Scotland? 

The Budget, Elections and Beyond….

So we move towards publication of the Scottish Budget later this month.  This will determine the public sector landscape and how services will be delivered both nationally and locally – no matter which party wins power next year.

We intend to put out a final ‘plea’ to MSPs prior to ensure that they support recognition of carers and young carers within the budget, and to ask them to put pressure on the Minister and Mr Swinney to continue Carer Information Strategy funds continue beyond 2011.  We will also ask that the existing Government places a requirement on health boards to work with carer organisations to take any future funding forward and that Centres benefit directly from this – they are best place to deliver services which benefit carers and young carers.

Even if this funding stream continues (and that would be extremely welcome) it does not guarantee sustainable funding for carer support and Carers’ Centres from 2011. The early stage plans to merge social care provision and other functions across a number of local authorities in the west of Scotland would likely have an impact on funding for Carers Centres.

So, now, more than ever, Carers Centres and the carers they support need to be vocal and visible and demonstrate the economic and social impact of reducing or stopping funding for carer support.  An example has been set – a Conservative controlled local authority in Greater London has recently awarded the local Carers Centre a seven year contract to deliver services because of its unique and effective offering.  That should be the model we aspire to.  If a Conservative local authority can do it, so can others.

All political parties in Scotland say they are committed to unpaid carers and young carers.  No doubt, each party’s manifesto will make a commitment to support them. Warm words at this point.  Carers who spoke at the recent Cross Party Group highlighted the continuing challenges they face for recognition.  We launched the Scottish Carers Manifesto at that event and its banner says ‘No more talk…. Action now”. That is the message we want every MSP and prospective parliamentary candidate to take to heart. There are tens of thousands of carers in your constituency and regions – that’s a lot of votes. In what is likely to be the tightest election since devolution, carers and first time voters who are young carers could help you win your constituency or regional seat.

Next time…

There is more happening at a national level around closer working between health and social care. This relates to the “Reshaping Care for the Elderly” agenda. Once we have more detail we will keep you posted.

For now, take care and please let me know what is happening with social care provision in your area.  Have cuts started to affect you?  Please contact me or use our Facebook pages to let us know the types of issues that you would like us to raise with MSPs.

Lynn

November 10, 2010 Posted by | Benefits, Budget, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, Health, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Party Conferences, Scotland, Social Care, Young carers | , , , , , | Leave a comment