Kezia Dugdale: Crisis in care sector is a taxing problem

Edinburgh's most vulnerable residents are not getting the care they deserve. Picture: John Devlin
Edinburgh's most vulnerable residents are not getting the care they deserve. Picture: John Devlin
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If you were caring for a ­vulnerable person and had just 15 minutes to check on them, which of the following three things would you prioritise?

Helping them to have a shower and put on a fresh, clean set of clothes?

Theres May is determined to remain Prime Minister. Picture: AP

Theres May is determined to remain Prime Minister. Picture: AP

Focus on making sure they ate a hot meal and drank plenty of water to stay hydrated?

Or maybe you’d sit down and fill out that benefits form, knowing that if it wasn’t done soon, the money to buy the food and heat the shower would be gone.

That’s the moral maze that countless city carers face every day, and the problems that flow from such a short-term approach are now spiralling hugely out of control.

Deep in the depths of the council’s website you can find what’s called a “disclosure log”. It’s where the council publishes requests under the Freedom of Information Act that people have sent in to find out more detail about council finances and challenges.

Much of what is kept hidden from public council meetings can be found here. Like the truth about the city’s care crisis.

Or the fact that at the last count in September, 850 people had been assessed by a social worker, GP or other referral body, as needing a care package for the first time – but were having to wait for it. Let that sink in for a second.

In this city alone, professionals have assessed 850 different people as being unable to live safely on their own and there was no one available to help them.

That same FOI request reveals that many of the people who have been assessed, and do have a carer, aren’t getting the number of hours that the professionals believe they need.

The picture is bleak. Hundreds of folk waiting for packages of care and support; those lucky enough to have a package not getting what they need – all provided for by care workers who are expected to make the most ­excruciating moral judgements about what should be done first.

There simply isn’t enough money in the system to meet demand and without dramatically increased resources, cuts have to be made. The biggest cost the care sector faces is wages; it’s at least 80 per cent of the cost of the service. But don’t think for a second that means gold-plated salaries.

Care workers are often on an hourly rate just above the minimum wage. The Scottish Government recently provided additional money to ensure all workers get the real living wage of £8.75 but there’s growing evidence that the providers aren’t passing that cash on to their workers.

When wages can’t be suppressed any further, bosses look to terms and conditions. And that’s where ­zero-hour contracts creep in, sick pay disappears, and staff don’t get paid travelling from one client to another. It all adds up to an exploited workforce doing their level best to care for vulnerable people.

Crisis is a word often overused in politics but it does apply here. After reading into the detail of Edinburgh’s plight, I asked one care worker if the situation was a ticking time bomb and she said no . . . it’s already exploded.

Hours unmet, vulnerable folk desperately waiting on support to help eat, wash and pay bills, staff on ­rubbish pay and worse terms and conditions. More people waiting to be assessed, and even more in hospital beds when they could be going home. Countless lives falling short of lives well lived.

It’s a growing disaster that can’t be fixed with a fudge, or parked in a review or a consultation or any exercise designed to buy time rather than care. The Government must accept that social care is in crisis and find the cash – and it will need to come from the better off. I for one would pay a bit more tax to sleep at night knowing the pain and discomfort so many others across the city are facing.

We need a new vote to stop this mad Brexit

IT’S going to be another rollercoaster of a week in British politics.

Who knows exactly what will happen in the coming days, but we can be certain of one thing: there will be more chaos at the heart of politics.

Theresa May appears determined to carry on fighting, even if the magical number of 48 letters calling on her to resign is reached and the Tories’ arcane rulebook comes into play.

But, whether she survives or not, her Brexit deal has zero chance of getting through parliament.

There is no such thing as a ‘good’ Brexit deal. That message needs to not only be understood by the Tory government, but also by my own party.

Brexit will decimate jobs, harm our economy and put hard-fought workers’ rights at risk. It’s time to stop this madness.

This constitutional uncertainty is deeply damaging for businesses here in Edinburgh.

We have one of the most successful local economies in the UK, built on a thriving services sector. But companies need certainty and the destructive plan to take us out of the EU has already hit our economy – and we haven’t even left yet.

There is, however, an opportunity to save jobs and allow Edinburgh’s economy to flourish. It’s called a People’s Vote.

In 2016, nobody voted to make themselves poorer, but that’s precisely the reality of Brexit. In the interests of democracy, control should be put back in the hands of the British people.

We deserve the chance to decide if we still want to go ahead with this hair-brained scheme to take us out of the EU.

I believe the momentum towards a People’s Vote is now unstoppable. When it comes, I’m confident the people of Edinburgh – and the UK – will vote to remain in the EU.

The poppies have been put away but lonely veterans still need support

Edinburgh’s remembrance events are over and poppies won’t adorn lapels for another year.

As always, the city came together to pay its respects and this year was particularly poignant as it marked the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Last week also saw the first remembrance event in Scotland for the Muslim soldiers of the British Indian Army who died here during the Second World War – a reminder of the contribution of soldiers of all faiths which must never be forgotten.

But November must not be the only time of the year that we stop to think about the service of the armed forces community.

Loneliness and social isolation is something faced by veterans every single day. Social isolation is thought to affect at least 15 per cent of the Scottish ex-service community. Poppyscotland’s survey found that 70 per cent of people thought loneliness and social isolation was an issue for our armed forces community.

The charity has called on the Scottish Government to address this issue through its Social Isolation and Loneliness Strategy, which is currently being finalised. I’m proud to support the campaign.

Action we should take includes breaking the stigma that our armed forces community faces regarding social isolation and loneliness.

We need to build the required practical support for our armed forces community to become more connected, and should align policy, strategy, funding and resources to these aims so that our veterans receive the support they need and so rightly deserve.