Humza Yousaf's biggest challenge is finding a way to fix the social care crisis that's growing as Scotland's population ages – Susan Dalgety

The headline numbers that are regularly bandied about by government ministers and found lurking in council reports are often so large as to be meaningless.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

One of Humza Yousaf’s first commitments as First Minister was to promise £1 million to help GP practices tackle health inequalities in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area. An impressive sum, until you discover there are more than 240 GP practices in that part of Scotland. Divide the headline sum between them and each will get just over £4,000. Barely enough to meet their surgeries’ energy bill, let alone tackle health inequalities.

But sometimes a number is more than cynical political spin, and its impact even bigger than the headlines suggest. One such figure was the revelation last week that Edinburgh’s Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP) is overspending by £100,000 a day. The situation is so dire that next month, members of the Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board (EIJB), who oversee the work of partnership, will have to find ways to cut its budget by £35 million, just to balance the books.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In coded language, Moira Pringle, the board’s chief financial officer, told city councillors that the EIJB will be presented with a financial plan that adds up, but the board “will have to take a view on whether or not they believe that they can support that”. In other words, to make the books balance, the board will have to agree to spending cuts which will reduce vital services to the city’s frail elderly.

It doesn’t matter who is to blame for the crisis. Whether it is the Scottish Government for under-funding social care, or the partnership for mismanaging its budget, the reality is that the victims are the thousands of men and women across our city who depend on the social care system simply to stay alive and in a modicum of comfort.

No doubt there will be some kind of financial fudge found next month that staves off bankruptcy for another year, but the day of reckoning will come, and not just in Edinburgh. Social care across Scotland is in crisis. Staff are undervalued and badly paid.

An ageing population means demand on the service will rise by 25 per cent by 2031. If Edinburgh is overspending by £100,000 a day just now, imagine what its deficit will be like in eight years’ time. And by 2035 there will be more than 1.7 million people aged 60 and over in Scotland. Many of them will require social care at some point, and yet, as a country, we have no idea how we will pay for it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Unless there is a revolution in how we fund social care, more and more of us will have to fend for ourselves, either by caring for own relatives or by looking after ourselves as best we can – which brings me back to the First Minister. Humza Yousaf’s in-tray is overflowing with stuff that needs his urgent attention, from the state of the SNP’s finances to the cost of replacing lifeline ferries.

But perhaps his biggest challenge of all will be to find a way to properly fund social care and ensure that our elderly can live in dignity. I hope he is up to the task.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.