SNP spin doctors can’t mask a care system in crisis – Kezia Dugdale

More people will suffer as �10m is stripped from Edinburgh City Council's social care budget. Picture: John Devlin
More people will suffer as �10m is stripped from Edinburgh City Council's social care budget. Picture: John Devlin
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Avery sick woman came to my surgery on Friday. She’s just been told her new kitchen, which she’d be waiting on for a long time was going to be delayed further because the company set to build it, McGill’s, had gone bust. That wasn’t even her main reason for coming to see me.

She was one of thousands of people across the Lothian’s who are really struggling just now. We all know the financial pain that austerity has imparted over this past decade and the struggle I write of today is of all those people living with a disability, whether that’s a mobility issue meaning they need help washing or dressing, or something like chronic pain that makes some of life’s most basic tasks utterly unbearable.

Iain Stirling hosted the BBC Scotland channel's launch show

Iain Stirling hosted the BBC Scotland channel's launch show

Our social care system is designed to help people who find themselves in this situation. And for thousands across the city, it works well. Carers come with shopping, make meals, clean homes and help people get dressed or get them to and from appointments. They make life bearable, but they also save the city countless amounts of cash. They are heroes in that regard and we reward them with low pay and insecure employment contracts. It’s really shameful.

Every person with a decent support package in place, able to live comfortably in their own home, is one less person in a care home or a hospital bed, which costs many times over the price we pay for help at home

Yet the budget passed by the SNP Government last week will see over £10 million stripped from the council’s social care budget and over £5m from NHS Lothian. It’s going to get harder to provide the care already in place, those waiting in pain will wait longer, and those who become ill as a consequence will end up in our hospitals unable to get home because they support they need just isn’t there. It’s a dismal cycle utterly failed by public policy.

Yesterday this paper published an encounter I had with a woman in the east end of Edinburgh whose arthritis was debilitating. Her long-needed operation was cancelled and then the home adaptations she required were pushed to the back of an ever-expanding queue. She should not have to live like this.

The amount of money we spend adapting houses is a tiny fraction of what we spend on keeping people in hospital who don’t need to be there. Five years ago, the total figure for Scotland was just £13m and it helped around 6000 people. That’s for the whole country. That sum has fallen to just £10m, according to the last figures published.

The new Integrated Joint Boards means far less transparency on what public cash is actually being spent on and the questions I’ve tabled to Government ministers in parliament simply offer promises to find new ways of sharing the detail later in the year. Not good enough.

This is consistently what the SNP do when faced with a difficult problem. Hide the detail and brush away the paper trail. They did it in our schools system. When kids’ ability to read, write and count started to fall, they scrapped the literacy and numeracy tests that proved it. When school inspections started to show school standards slipping, the SNP took all the previous inspection reports off the website so that parents couldn’t compare them. When ScotRail consistently failed to meet its punctuality targets, they secretly lowered them.

Our sick and elderly don’t need political spin and cynical manipulation. They need a government prepared to do the heavy lifting. Serious cash needs to go into house adaptations so that we save money in the future. If we flipped the trend and spent the bed blocking money on handrails and wet rooms, we’d save the NHS and councils millions. Money we could use to pay our care workers the kind of cash they deserve. It just requires bold leadership over creative accounting.

Let’s hope the new BBC Scotland channel won’t be a turn-off for viewers

For those of you who managed to retune your TVs in time, the new BBC Scotland channel started broadcasting for the first time last night with a special launch show hosted by Edinburgh Fringe favourite and voice of the hit show Love Island, Iain Stirling.

The channel used its launch night to showcase some of the newly commissioned programmes that will be going to air over the coming weeks, which features established hits such as Still Game as well as a raft of new programmes such as Getting Hitched Asian Style and Inside Central Station.

The bosses behind the new channel are realistic and know that breaking into a crowded television market dominated by the “traditional” channels coupled with increasing competition and pressure from on-line streaming services that carving out and growing a new audience will be a challenge. Whilst the viewing figures in the early days might be a low, I think it can only be a good thing that viewers in Scotland will have more choice over what to watch and in particular that there will be a renewed focus on Scottish interests.

Of particular interest will be the new news programme The Nine which will offer regional, national and international news from a Scottish perspective, further buoying Scotland’s already healthy journalistic landscape and improving scrutiny of those in power across Scotland.

To complement this there will also be a weekly Question Time-style series called Debate Night, hosted by Stephen Jardine. I just hope it manages to find more light than heat in these turbulent times.

Health centre in dire straits needs lifeline

Last Friday I once again visited the threatened Pilton Community Health Centre (PCHP) in the north of the city. I arrived the day after the SNPs Scottish Budget had been passed in the Scottish Parliament, confirming millions of pounds of cuts would be passed on to local government, putting vital local services like the PCHP’s future at risk.

Due to the funding cuts being handed down by the SNP to Edinburgh City Council, services at the PCHP have already had to be drastically reduced.

The staff at the PCHP know the area well, many have worked at the centre for decades, and they know first-hand exactly how vitally important they are to sustaining and supporting so many in the local community.

There is no escaping how grave the situation for the centre is: they are clinging on by their fingernails, having had to use every last penny that had saved in reserves, alongside having to close a number of services.

Last year alone the PCHP helped almost 800 who needed it access a hot meal, but due to the funding cuts services like this might be no longer sustainable.

The organisation has already had to close its crèche services and scale back its women’s support groups that act as a lifeline for so many vulnerable women in the local area.

The women that access these support groups are some of the most vulnerable clients the PCHP assists, many who use the services are traumatised and suicidal. Without the support groups there is nowhere else to refer them, so they face a reduced service or potentially no service at all.

The PCHP are seeking to crowdfund £50,000 just to keep their doors open, after a week they are a fifth of the way there, but there’s a long way to go. Please visit www.savepchp.com to donate.