Recently, the ALLIANCE undertook a significant programme to hear from people across Scotland about their experiences of health and social care during the pandemic and their priorities for the future. We intentionally took a human rights and equalities lens to the design of the activities to ensure that we were reaching out and enabling the participation of a range of groups across the country. What we heard shone a light on the public health crisis that has long engulfed Scotland – one of persistent, intractable and widening health inequalities.
We heard encouraging examples of individual and community resilience that has been demonstrated under extreme pressures and uncertainty.
A lot of people felt frustrations of uncertainty about the pandemic and the measures being taken to mitigate its impact. There is a detrimental impact to people’s mental health and a disproportionate impact on groups in our society who were already facing barriers to accessing their rights, as recently highlighted by the Equality and Human Rights Committee.
For too long there has been an insufficient focus and investment in communities. Cormac Russell, a leading figure in Asset Based Community Development has said “health is not something we bring to people; it is the net result of a community coming together to use what it has to secure what it needs, including medical systems when required.”
The need for an ongoing focus on the factors that support health and wellbeing is why the ALLIANCE strongly advocates for the principles of self management to be at the heart of the transformation of health and social care. Through our work managing the currently open Self Management Fund and supporting the third sector in developing and delivering self management projects, we hear the importance of helping people to get a foundation of wellbeing in their lives, of enabling people to maintain control of their condition and enjoy their right to live well.
The community response to the pandemic highlights the need to stop designing solutions that assume services are the answer to generating and protecting health and wellbeing. At the ALLIANCE we support the call of others to put wellbeing and person-centred responses at the heart of the ongoing response.We need to invest in community infrastructure and third sector support. This year has highlighted the value of third sector support and the swift and professional response it has demonstrated. People have worked together in existing and new partnerships; sharing skills, networks and resources to respond innovatively and buffer the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This joint working needs to continue with the same level of shared purpose and intensity to support the longer term impacts from this pandemic and in tackling the persistent inequalities.
Our engagement work echoes the findings from other organisations about the important contribution the third sector makes to advancing equality and protecting and advocating for people’s rights. Considering the nature of third sector funding and short-term funding cycles, there is a genuine concern regarding how we can sustain these positive developments as this public health crisis continues.
We will recover; to recover stronger we must pull together the strengths and assets of everyone in our society and build a fairer, more equal Scotland with support and services that put people at the centre.
Sara Redmond, Director of Development and Improvement, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland