Health and Social Care
Cabinet Secretary launches Care about Angus
“When I first started it took me about a week before I worked out who was a staff member and who was a volunteer – everyone contributed so much” explained Barry as the car pulled out from Dundee station. As we sped past a huge Desperate Dan mural on the way out of town towards Forfar he told me more about the Care About Angus project that was shortly to be officially launched by Shona Robison, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport.
Let’s forget about the weather and Donald Trump just for a moment – and think about some good news for a change. Last year, the people (almost all women) employed by Angus Council’s Home Help service faced redundancy with their older or disabled clients expected to lose their vital support.
Gary Malone and his colleagues at Voluntary Action Angus turned this around by creating a new, employee-led Community Interest Company, that would not only continue to provide these important services, but expand them in response to the demands of their customers to include befriending and volunteer driving.
People are enabled to help themselves and their neighbours to provide a sense of community and mutual support. Minimal supervision and back-office support keep costs low and the frontline staff themselves make the key decisions about the direction of the business.
Right on cue the Cabinet Secretary arrived at the bustling community centre where the launch was to take place and paused first to chat with those running the crèche. She then met Gary, and spoke to the staff, before posing for a football team-style group photograph with the Care About Angus staff in their pale blue uniforms.
During her speech, Ms Robison drew on her own experience as a home care manager in Glasgow and recognised the challenging job the staff were doing. She acknowledged that everyone is under pressure to provide better services within finite resources and this means doing things differently and not being afraid to test new ideas. People had been talking about the need for joined up budgets and multi-disciplinary teams for a long time, and now the integration of health and social care was making this a reality. She thanked the Care About Angus staff for their hard work and for their determination to provide a truly person-centred service as an example of the vital role of the third sector in integration.
After the formal speeches, Sandy – one of the few male home helps – bent my ear about his idea to create a reality TV programme that would show how an older person in a large house now too big for their needs could have their lives transformed by being assisted to move into a smaller, more suitable property. The climax of each show would be the older person, now happily settled in their new place, coming back to see their old home given a new lease of life by a young family now. No-one here seems reticent about sharing a novel idea and trying their best to make it happen.
The visit followed the recent announcement of a further £250m from Scottish Government to protect and grow social care services, including implementation of the Living Wage for care workers supporting vulnerable adults. Care About Angus, which is already a Living Wage employer, has been influenced by the principles underlying the Buurtzorg scheme which has proved so successful in the Netherlands. The visit was also timely in that it coincided with the issuing of a letter inviting expressions of interest in pilot schemes building on these principles.
As we headed back to the station, I wondered if, like Desperate Dan, the Care About Angus staff would be looking forward to a nice hot slice of cow pie this evening to celebrate the launch.