Social care disaster needs to be prevented - Lewis Younie
The cases that stay with me the most after I finish up work for the day often relate to social care. The families and individuals affected are, especially with the impact of Covid, exhausted.
For years, the most vulnerable in our city and those who look after them have faced extreme difficulty in getting assistance when they need it. That’s why they often contact their councillors, and I help as best I can – contacting the social care team directly on their behalf, enquiring after support packages, or chasing adaptions which would make life a bit easier.
It shouldn’t be necessary that councillors need to intercede. It’s evidence of a system teetering on the edge of complete collapse. Those who deliver the care and those who need it have been pushed to their absolute limit, beyond what any fair person would deem acceptable.
The disaster that looms over the city however, has the potential to push them further still. It’s no secret that there is a massive deficit in the budget for the Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board which stands at over £16 million. To cut social care services further, at all, is completely unconscionable – some of the suggestions would devastate people’s lives, people who can scarce sustain further adversity.
This means the council must find the money and meet this shortfall – the NHS, the City’s partner, has been extremely clear that they have met their commitments to the Board. Regardless, councillors have no power to compel the NHS to provide a larger contribution. Similarly, the Scottish Government has repeatedly refused to provide the council with the appropriate amount to fund social care.
This a pretty bleak picture, albeit with a single ray of hope. There is an underspend from last year’s council budget to the tune of about £13m. I couldn’t look my constituents in the eye if we don’t use this to stop further catastrophe.
Elected councillors have an obligation to residents. You empower us to govern your city. The highest responsibility we have is to keep those most vulnerable residents safe and able to live in dignity. To achieve that high standard means standing in solidarity with our social care staff.
There are many things I would like to do with this underspend, creative things to improve our city and achieve our ambitions as a council. The first port of call must, however, be meeting our statutory and moral obligations. Failing to do so would be a betrayal of our care staff and those whom they support.
That’s why my colleagues and I in the Liberal Democrat group will be pushing for this underspend to be utilised in the best way possible: funding the provision of social care. Standing up for the vulnerable is, after all, what we are here to do.
Lewis Younie is councillor for Almond Ward and member of the Finance and Resources Committee