Caring for Edinburgh

Improving care in Edinburgh might also unlock the capital’s political logjam, argues Susan Rae.

According to last week’s report into care in Edinburgh our services for older people are weak in several respects, specifically in ensuring that people get the right help at the right time.

This will come as no surprise to many service users and their families across Edinburgh who have had to wait too long for a homecare package or much longer than needed to be discharged from hospital thus earning the ill-deserved label ‘bed-blocker, as though this was a deliberate act.

Therefore, as the debate about the make-up of the city council ebbs and flows, improving care has to be a top priority – whichever combination of parties is in charge.

That is why Green councillors have made a specific proposal on care services as part of a package of early reforms that we think will command consensus, the others being on housing, air pollution and making our council more open.

Our care proposal is to pay care workers a “Living Wage Plus” of at least £9.20 an hour, giving care work the edge over competing jobs in, say supermarkets. Alongside other changes in terms and conditions – like training, career progression and on-job technology – this should tackle the crisis of recruitment of care staff which is one of the underlying problems which Edinburgh faces.

Of course, a crisis which has been years in the making does not just have one cause and one solution.

Edinburgh is very lucky in having a well-respected and experienced group of charities and community bodies who have care as part of their DNA. Effectively tapping into that opens up access to the informal networks of neighbourhood help which transform care from being simply a service to being a social responsibility.

In our proposals for Edinburgh, Greens outlined a “Caring for Edinburgh Coalition” in which the not-for-profit sector would increasingly take on the care work currently led by commercial organisations.

Finally, and most importantly, without service users and their families being at the heart of it, there can be no caring. People who receive care are best placed to say what they need. So the inspection report issued last week is absolutely right to highlight that as part of the way forward.

A programme of reform which combines decent pay for care workers, harnesses the potential of not-for-profit providers and which puts service users and their carers at its heart, will make a difference to some of our most vulnerable residents. And it will help focus all councillors on the services we are here to deliver: no bad thing in the current capital logjam.