Common Weal Launches ‘Caring for All’ – a Blueprint for a Real National Care Service in Scotland
By Colin Turbett
Common Weal, Scotland’s left think tank, have just launched their detailed proposition for a comprehensive National Care Service: ‘Caring for All’ is presented as an alternative to the ill-thought through proposals in the recent Scottish Government consultation. This involves an aspiration for a free at point of need, community-based service that would support people and meet particular specialised need from ‘the womb to the tomb’. The service would be organised through a central co-ordinating NCS organisation and delivered through local authorities. An emphasis is placed on improving the pay, status and training to the social care workforce who deliver direct personal care in people’s homes, with a commitment to collective bargaining to raise the level of trade union membership and significance.
Informal carers are also offered more support, practically and financially to make life better for themselves and those they look after. This is no token commitment to human rights, the report proposes that talk of rights is meaningless without attention to other equally significant matters: what it describes as the ‘Four Rs’ : Rights baked by Resources adequate to meet needs, the Responsibility of Government to put them in place, and Relationships upon which care should be provided. Social care workers who go into people’s homes should be freed up to spend the time needed to earn the trust and respect of those they work with – no more fifteen-minute visits focused on hurried attention to the most urgent personal care needs! Social workers should return to communities to provide support to those who need help at the earliest opportunity, rather than largely focusing as now, on a resource gatekeeping and risk assessment/surveillance role. Managers should enablers and facilitators not top-down controllers. Formalised top down integration between Health and Social Work/Social Care services should be abandoned in favour of local networking and liaison built from the bottom up.
The Scottish Government’s own response was initiated by catastrophic levels of deaths of residents in care homes as a consequence of Covid. This in turn led to the rather narrow Feeley proposals for improvements for older people’s care, and then very rapidly to the consultation’s wider recommendations that had much else bolted on in rather piecemeal fashion. Both Feeley and the more recent consultation recommendations continued the major role of the private sector in the delivery of care to the most vulnerable in the residential and nursing home sectors. Common Weal believe that this has failed in the past – profit has no place in services for the most vulnerable – and should be ended immediately. The voluntary not for profit sector has an important role in meeting certain specialised services at national and local level, but the main principal is that services should be run by and for the people through state ownership of services with local control wherever practical and possible.
Of course, critics will challenge the whole concept on the basis of cost: Caring for All suggests an additional £ billion on top of monies already committed. Socialists believe that such funds could be made available through taxation changes and a shift in public spending away from subsidies to profiteers and socially unnecessary spending priorities. A green socialist economy would prioritise care just as Health was in 1948 with the creation of the NHS – the NCS should sit alongside the NHS in partnership and status.
Unlike the Government proposals, Caring for All is founded on a set of sound principals and the detail flows from them. The paper is the result of eighteen months work by a volunteer Care Reform Working Group who share a socialist vision of what a service should look like. Between them they have hundreds of years’ worth of experience in social care and social work, and include SSP member Colin Turbett. Much of the report’s content is reflected in SSP policy for a NCS updated at Conference in November 2021.