Long-term sufferers need support to help themselves

Picture: Esme Allen
Picture: Esme Allen
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HELPING people to help themselves should be at the very centre of how many public services are thought about and delivered.

That means working with individuals to build on their own skills, capacities and potential; and putting people, not professionals or governments, in charge of the services they receive.

The care industry is on the brink of a revolution. Self-directed support legislation will give people needing care the right to their own budgets with the chance to organise and control the services that might help them.

Evidence from the long-term conditions field shows that a little bit of government support, which enables sufferers to help each other, is hugely cost effective because it keeps people away from hospitals and doctors.

Alongside demographic pressure and public spending cuts, the rise in long-term conditions is a critical reason why change is needed to make our public services fit for the future. More of the same won’t do.

Pioneering work on asset-based approaches which focus on people and communities has many advocates in the Scottish Government, including passionate support from the Chief Medical Officer.

Sadly, however, the usual vested interests seem intent on thwarting change.

The biggest centre of resistance to building on the assets of people and communities comes from Scottish local government. Much of it still stuck in a municipalist timewarp where the honourable tradition of the Council looking after its people was the organising principle.

The world has moved on. We must embrace self-help and assets-based work, not see it as a threat to the livelihoods of local officers.

A mindset revolution is what is needed … but all we get from COSLA are calls for more power, money and control.

Putting those who use services in charge of their own budgets and services; letting local people lead their own communities and work to their own priorities; getting the state to support people to help themselves and each other – these ought to be the new mantras for our public services.

It’s what might just make them fit for the future.

• Martin Sime is chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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