A fair chance for all is a human right

Inequality comes in many forms, affecting tens of thousands across Scotland. Picture: PA
Inequality comes in many forms, affecting tens of thousands across Scotland. Picture: PA
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CrossReach aims to fight inequality in all its manifestations across Scotland, writes Dr Sally Bonnar

Human rights are at the core of social care. At CrossReach, we are guided by our conviction that every human being is equally valuable and equally worthy of respect.

We therefore want every person to have the opportunity to participate, as equals, in the life of their community. For most of us, it takes little more than a conscious choice in order to participate – whether we choose to visit our neighbours, get involved in the local school, or attend a local church. For some of our fellow-citizens, however, there are significant physical, emotional and sometimes financial barriers which make it difficult to be part of the community. CrossReach, and social care generally, exists to make the opportunity to participate available to everyone.

The Church of Scotland, through CrossReach, is in the business of breaking down barriers. We support people to take part as equals, whether they are dealing with dementia, depression, addiction or a host of other challenging circumstances. We’re diverse, we work across Scotland and we have nearly 150 years’ experience in our field, but we recognise that we cannot break down every barrier ourselves. As the dust settles on the general election campaign, here are some ways in which the government can help us to realise our vision.

Help us deal with dementia. We welcome the investment already made in dementia research and support, but would always encourage the government to do more to combat a disease which affects 850,000 people in the UK, and which will affect two million by 2051. While increasing funding to aid the search for better treatment, the government also has a role to play in ensuring everyone who has dementia has access to the best possible support. CrossReach was the first organisation in Scotland to appoint a dementia ambassador in all of our services for older people, an initiative which has improved the support we can deliver – other organisations should be supported to make a similar investment. Dementia does not mean the end of a person’s contribution to their community – CrossReach’s innovative Heart for Art project, for example, is an opportunity for people to use creative arts to remain active citizens by hosting exhibitions and passing on their skills to young people.

End the stigma of poverty. We all know that, though it doesn’t feel like it, in a global context we are a rich country. We are also aware that, despite this, poverty still exists here. What we often do not appreciate is that being poor does not just mean being disadvantaged, it also means being disrespected. The contempt often shown to those who are badly-off is the last acceptable form of discrimination. We support families to overcome the barriers that poverty puts in their way, and believe that government should lead by example in discussing the issue with dignity and respect.

Fund post-natal depression services. Around 140,000 people become parents every year in Britain. As many as one in six new mothers and one in ten new fathers experience postnatal depression, yet 71 per cent of health boards have no midwives or health visitors trained in perinatal mental health. All parents should have access to talking therapies like CrossReach’s counselling services. Funding postnatal depression counselling will not only improve the long-term health of parents, but will also ensure they are able to give their new baby the best start in life.

Value the social care workforce. Across the UK almost two million people work in social care, devoting their working lives to supporting their fellow-citizens to participate as equals. Along with many dedicated volunteers, they are working to ensure no-one is left out. Each of these individuals deserves our gratitude for the work they are doing, and we hope that the government will join with us in seeking to recognise the essential role they play in society.

As our new government takes office, we would encourage them to get alongside the social care sector, and support us as we seek to ensure that each and every person has the opportunity to participate as an equal in their community.

Dr Sally Bonnar is convener of the Church of Scotland Social Care Council (CrossReach) www.crossreach.org.uk