Planting the seeds of better social care

Age Scotland’s Communication and Campaigns Officer, Doug Anthoney, blogs about the recent social care announcements by the UK Government.

Man gardening

Social care provisions in England could lean towards hobbies and leisure activities, like gardening.

Last week Social Care Minister Paul Burstow announced that a Government shake of social care would include help to promote leisure activities and friendships among older people.  “Simply put, it is a vision for social work that is no longer based on one that only reacts in crises,” said Burstow. “Instead we want social workers to look to people’s talents, their gifts, their goals.”

Does this herald a radical new world in which social workers help older people to release their inner gardener, or chauffeur them to a blues jam session with their mates? Not quite yet.  For a start this was Westminster, not Holyrood, and so the review applies to England and not Scotland.

And, of course, words don’t necessarily translate into meaningful action.  However Burstow’s vision of social care being about what a person would like to be supported to do is, and of meeting their social needs being a primary aim, is to be applauded.

So is Scotland ahead or lagging behind here?  The Self Directed Support Bill currently progressing through the Scottish Parliament holds out the prospect of older people being able to take control of the budget for any social care they receive.

Age Scotland’s Senior Policy and Parliamentary Officer, Callum Chomczuk, gave evidence to the Parliament this week on the bill, and said:

“The Bill builds on existing provision for people to make use of direct payments for social care, however it includes new features including a right to advocacy.  This is crucial, as a knowledgeable and impartial advocate can open your eyes to the widest range of options to improving your health and wellbeing, from gardening classes to a short break with a friend.”

This all sounds great for those receiving care at home, but what about older people in residential care? No matter how good support is for people in their communities, it’s inevitable that many of us at some point will need to go into a care home.

Subjected to a drip feed of scare stories in the media, there’s understandably a high level of public anxiety that our fate is to be sat twelve hours a day in the same chair, staring blankly at the Jeremy Kyle Show while a callous care assistant feeds us dog biscuits.

While there are poorly performing care homes out there, they are under more pressure than ever before thanks to the recent introduction of annual unannounced inspections.  And with more than three in every four rated good, very good or excellent on quality of care and support it’s clear that the majority are providing a decent service.

The best, however, look for opportunities to offer something special to residents, to spark their interest and kindle their joy in life.

On 3rd July this year these care homes will be taking part in Go for Gold, a care home ‘Olympics’ involving games, walking and dance challenges for residents to mark the run up to the World Congress on Active Ageing in Glasgow on 13th to 17th August.  They will also taking advantage of opportunities including Luminate, Scotland’s first national festival celebrating arts, creativity and ageing in October, to make the care home experience rewarding and life affirming for each resident.

Do you think that the Minister’s ideas for social care should include the provision of leisure and social activities? Let us know in the comments – we’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

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