A week is a long time for an umbrella

Dr Donald McCaskill (2)Over the next few weeks we will use Alan’s Blog to publish a number of “guest blogs” from members of the Social Work Services Strategic Forum.  This week Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care, scottish careshares some of the highlights of his fortnight and the work he undertakes in support of the Vision and Strategy for Social Services.


The vagaries of the Scottish weather are something I am more than used to but in the last fortnight they seemed to have reached a depth of confusion which stretch the memory. I was reminded of the sage advice of Mr William Connolly that there is no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothing, as I left my umbrella on the train to walk into a monsoon outside Glasgow Central. One brolly down!

I was on route to the balmy west end of Edinburgh to the offices of Cosla, that fount of all things local government, and to the inaugural meeting of the Delivering Change in Adult Social Care Group. Reporting to the Ministerial Strategy Group, this group is charged with pursuing the necessary reforms and changes which need to take place over the next few months and years in care homes and the care at home sector. We do indeed live in interesting times when not least the new realities of living in an ‘integrated’ world will necessitate reflection and reform. The way we deal with these challenges will be important and instructive. As the relatively new CEO of Scottish Care I am aware as I travel around the country of the tremendous amount of innovative and inspiring work being undertaken every day in the independent sector. Lives are daily being transformed and people are able to achieve their full potential in sometimes challenging situations. Amidst all the debate it is the enabling of these positive outcomes that must lie at the heart of all we do.

Scottish Care’s member organisations employ the largest grouping of social care staff in Scotland, some 41% of the total workforce; the majority work in older people’s care and support services. You don’t need me to highlight for you the particular challenges, not least in terms of resources, which we face in older people’s care and support. It is part of my job to continually advocate that the mark of any society is ensuring that we properly embed and protect the human rights of older people in our society; a society which, despite the rhetoric, is too often experienced as unequal and discriminatory by many of our senior citizens.

One of the real joys of a job like mine is that I get to meet folks who work at the care face. Over the last year and more, Scottish Care has developed work to ensure that the voice of frontline care staff is at the heart of not only policy decision making but in the delivery of care and support. Earlier this year we published Voices from the Frontline which was a collection of insights from frontline care workers on the challenges and joys of working in the sector.

The Office of the Chief Social Work Advisor supported that work and this week I met with Scottish Care Workforce Matters staff to plan for an event in September where we will be exploring the emotional and physical welfare, skills and ambitions of frontline staff. Caring costs at many levels, not least the emotional, and too often we fail to recognise or reckon that cost and take steps to support one another better.

Human rights lie at the heart of a lot of the work of Scottish Care. This includes a new project working in Highland and North Ayrshire seeking to embed a human rights approach to the delivery of self-directed support for older people, the Getting It Right for Older People project.  But it has also involved us in launching two human rights conventions for older people who use social care supports and services. This week I was delighted to receive the launch of a video made about the process by the Scottish Human Rights Commission. As one of the older participants reminds us in the video: Human rights… they are ours too.” 

PAMISI also had the pleasure this week of attending a meeting of the Board of Governors of PAMIS in Dundee and, you guessed it, that’s where the latest umbrella was donated to Abellio. PAMIS do extraordinary work in ensuring the voice of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities is at the heart of Scottish society. Increasingly many individuals receive care and support in their own homes and are sharing life experiences that in the past might have been ignored or denied to them. I was privileged to be an advisor on their bereavement project. Look at their website and their work. It is both inspiring and inspired.

Having now reduced my umbrella collection I took a venture into the fake sunshine of a Glasgow summer afternoon to attend a development session with staff from IRISS. Many of you will know the creative and dynamic work that IRISS logo-iriss-240undertakes. The afternoon experience recharged my creative juices and highlighted for me that there is indeed a distinctive contribution which those of us who work in social care can make not just in our integrated partnerships, but to shaping a society where the rights of all, regardless of age, are centre stage, not rhetoric alone but for real. The one thing it didn’t do was inspire me to go and buy another umbrella!

Dr Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive, Scottish Care