We call them carers – they think they are just doing what they need to do for family

Irene Oldfather is a Director at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and Former MSP.
Irene Oldfather is a Director at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and Former MSP.
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Do we do enough for our carers? Recognising and celebrating Scotland’s carers is challenging. Not least because many don’t recognise or identify as ‘carers’.

I’ve heard it so many times from those who are unpaid carers – they often see themselves as a son, ­daughter, brother or sister but not as a carer. Looking after a relative is just ­something that they do with little recognition of the huge contribution that they make on behalf of all of us.

Ensuring that people are treated in a dignified, rights-based and person-centred way across health and social care – putting what matters to them at the heart of care and support – is central to what the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) does. Seeing beyond the “condition” to the person and ensuring that they and their carer’s views are taken into account is part of our raison d’etre. Looking beyond a more than medicine approach is central to our House of Care and Self Management practices for health and ­wellbeing.

So too is ensuring a robust policy environment with adequate ­resources around carer support. Championing carer rights and ­supporting our other third sector partner organisations in the drive to raise awareness of their contribution is central to our work. For too long that voice was too quiet.

Looking over the last ten years, progress on the policy front has been made. The recent Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 seeks to ensure better and more consistent support for carers so that they can continue to care, if they wish, in better health and to have a life alongside caring.

Self-directed Support (sds) too, in ­principle, is about empowering and enabling though we’ve all had to be vigilant about how it works in ­practice. A recent ALLIANCE report suggested that an “over-reliance on Option 3 (where the local authority selects and arranges your support on your behalf), and a disparity in funding levels between the Options” means that the full story of SDS is not being told.

The devil in both these cases is in the detail of implementation which is dependent on resources. But good care is about more than policy and implementation. Anyone who has been a carer, and who has heard the story of our Dementia Carer Voices UK project lead Tommy Whitelaw about his journey of caring for his mum Joan, will know that a kind word, a sense of compassionate ­support, just a little bit of ­humanity from professionals around us can make all the difference and is sometimes just what’s needed to keep going. Actually, our carers tell us that often it is the relationships with the people around us that maintains our wellbeing.

These type of stories are also at the heart of our new Humans of Scotland initiative, which enables people to share powerful and thought-provoking stories about their lives, tell their stories and express their opinions on a range of issues they are passionate about. The ALLIANCE is proud of, and inspired by, these stories and by all of Scotland’s unpaid carers.

In recognition of all that is done in Scotland we want to celebrate it at our Concert for Caring in the ­Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on ­Saturday, 6 April, 2019. Our concert partner Regular Music and headline bands Hipsway, pictured, and ­Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 have been inspired by the stories that we tell of sacrifice, love and kindness across all forms of caring and want to support Scotland’s great army of heroes.

Getting resources, policy and implementation right is vital to ensuring high quality robust care but if you’ve ever been a carer and experienced the ups and downs and highs and lows you’ll also know what a luxury a night off can be. This concert is for you! The ALLIANCE ­celebrates our Scottish heroes. We hope you’ll join us.

Irene Oldfather is a director at the Health and Social Care ­Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and former MSP.