Saturday April 2nd is a day of action over the cost of living crisis. There will be protests and actions around the UK. Another Edinburgh is Possible has taken the initiative in calling a mass leafleting and petitioning event at midday outside the St James Quarter. We hope as many people as possible will come and join in and get the message across to a wider audience that we don”t have to suffer and pay the price for the super profits being generated by the oil and gas companies.
We’ll be there until 2pm – even if you can only join for part of the time your presence will be really helpful. Bring a placard if you have time to make one.
Edinburgh TUC is convening a Zoom meeting which will be attended by Councillor Ricky Henderson who is chair of the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB). The EIJB is responsible for the provision of Social Care in Edinburgh. In 2022 it is going to consult with the public on the future of the four Care Homes in Edinburgh and the future of the Social Care Service in Edinburgh. The Zoom meeting will be held on Thursday 20th January 2022 at 6.30pm. It will finish at 8pm. The meeting will be chaired by Carmen Simon, Vice Chair of Edinburgh TUC, who is a social care worker. The meeting will be introduced by representatives of local authority trade unions and myself as Secretary of Edinburgh TUC. Councillor Henderson will then respond to the issues that were raised in the introductions. His response will then be followed by questions from the attendees of the meeting, and Councillor Henderson’s response to these questions.The link to the meeting is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84839483672… Meeting ID: 848 3948 3672Passcode: 140481
Earlier this month campaigners rallied outside Ferrylee, one of the four publicly run care homes that remains under the threat of closure. Today the campaign raised a banner outside all four homes, Ferrylee, Fords Road, Clovenstone House and Jewel House to send a message to the Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board (EIJB) that we need the homes, we need public and democratically accountable care services, and we won’t be going away.
Drumbrae has been closed. The decision about closure of the other four publicly run residential care homes has been postponed until after the local authority elections in 2022. Had there been no campaign the homes could be already gone. At the last ‘Another Edinburgh is Possible Meeting’ we agreed to keep up the pressure on the EIJB. On 7th December, we organised a solidarity rally outside Ferrylee, one of the threatened homes, to coincide with the December meeting of the board.
In the photos you can see Brian Robertson from Unite making a deputation to the online board meeting.
Which meeting of board saw the papers and made the decision to consider closing 5 out of the 9 publicly run care homes in Edinburgh?
Is it within the powers of the board to borrow from the Public Loans Board to finance a first class care service in Edinburgh?
The notes for the meeting mention 1000 new care support workers. Is this the number for Edinburgh? Who will they be employed by – the council – the NHS – others?
Reference is made to capacity – are we to understand that capacity in residential care is to be reduced while home care capacity is increased?
The chair declined to respond to any of the questions.
You can watch the whole of the public session of EIJB meeting on the council website
The campaign for a National Care Service in Scotland: a contribution to a discussion. By HILARY HORROCKS (Edinburgh trades union council delegate). This article was first published on the People and Nature blog. We repost it here with the author’s permission.
Health is a devolved matter in the not-so-United Kingdom, and that has allowed successive Scottish governments to bring in progressive measures that are missing in England, such as abolition of prescription charges for everyone and free personal care for the elderly.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) government certainly sought to distance itself from Westminster during the first stages of the Covid pandemic, when it seemed to follow scientific advice more carefully, and kept the public better informed with daily briefings by the First Minister.
Between the first and second waves of Covid last year the virus was just about eliminated in Scotland – but like Westminster, the government at Holyrood failed to use the summer to bring in mitigating measures to reduce infection. So in the autumn, the return of schools and universities, coupled with the loosening of restrictions, led to a rise in cases similar to England’s.
Mask wearing has remained a legal requirement in Scotland, including for all secondary school pupils, and is generally well observed – but cases remain worryingly high, particularly in poorer areas.
Here, as in England and Wales, the terrible toll of deaths in care homes at the beginning of the pandemic brutally exposed the disastrous policy of freeing up NHS beds by transferring elderly hospital patients to care homes with no proper testing.
In the aftermath, the Scottish government commissioned an independent report on Adult Social Care (the Feeley Report), which recommended setting up a National Care Service (NCS).
In addition to the care homes scandal, social care in Scotland is beset with problems, exacerbated, as they are everywhere, by deindustrialisation and consequent social deprivation; decades of austerity; and the loss of skilled care workers because of Covid and Brexit.
Nowhere is the crisis more painfully clear, perhaps, than in the tragic rate of drugs deaths among young people, now at a record high.
The Scottish government has put out a long document listing their proposals for the NCS. These formed part of the SNP manifesto at the Scottish elections in May, in which it emerged the largest party and now governs in a working coalition with the Greens. Their proposals, designed to cover those with mental or physical disabilities, the elderly, those with dementia, recovering from alcohol or drug addictions, the homeless, children and families needing support, will, they say, be implemented within a year.
The guiding principles in the document sound promising at first sight: ensuring that care is person-centred, human-rights based, and is seen as an investment in society; nurturing and strengthening the workforce, and giving greater recognition to and support for unpaid carers.
The title of the plan – a National Care Service – is obviously designed to evoke parallels with the setting up of the National Health Service in 1947 and its radical reform of state welfare. However, it is anything but. Crucially, it fails to recognise the devastating impact of cuts to health and welfare and of the inroads of privatisation; and, in general, it does not move the debate beyond a neo-liberal framework.
The proposals are out for public consultation. The public can give its views in an interactive version of the document. However, you are restricted to giving responses to set questions, many of which don’t address the substantive issues. But unions, community groups and others are responding with their own independent contributions.
What follows is a summary of their most important criticisms, and is designed to open a discussion, not only in Scotland.
The role of care in society
“Care needs to be recognised as a social good”, Mark Smith, a researcher of social care, has written. “This is compromised by continuing to locate it within an economic system the primary motive of which is profit maximisation.”
A fundamental criticism of the Scottish government’s proposals is that no amount of government directive can make a difference, and that root-and-branch reform is needed.
“Most insiders in the profession recognise that the social work system is pretty broken”, Colin Turbett, a frontline social worker in the West of Scotland for nearly 40 years and author of Doing Radical Social Work(2014), says.
In the past few decades, he continues, the role of social workers has become restricted to the performance of statutory public protection duties, instead of the broader preventative welfare role they performed in the past.
“They only become involved when the situations of the people they work with might be beyond help, their skills being largely spent trying to mop up when earlier involvement might have prevented escalation.”
Social workers typically spend most of their time behind computer screens, rather than engaged with the individuals who need their help.
A public service
Critics of the NCS proposals insist that it should be a public service, completely not-for-profit, and principally delivered through local authorities. The Scottish government, in contrast, envisages a continuing role for the private sector, currently owners of 80% of care provision in Scotland.
This, despite the fact that the private sector is leeching funds out of care provision into property speculation or offshore tax havens; and that the record of privately-run care is far from good.
One of the major providers, Advinia Health Care, who own 11 care homes in Scotland, were second on the list of those homes that saw the most deaths during the first Covid wave.
The Scottish government and the health authorities directed the evacuation from hospitals to care homes, apparently blind to the fact that the care providers most likely to accept patients were those most motivated by profit.
Advinia Health Care is ultimately owned by a company registered in the tax haven of Gibraltar and has been the subject of an attempted financial investigation by the regulator in England. The Care Inspectorate reported in May of this year that they had found in one Advinia home unsafe disposal, storage and management of clinical waste, including PPE, while staff had not been given the correct PPE or shown how to use it properly.
The commitment of the Scottish government to the private sector in the context of its NCS proposals was confirmed, alarmingly, when it emerged recently that the £100,000 contract for the initial design of the proposed new care service had been awarded, even before any consultation has been concluded, to the Edinburgh branch of PriceWaterhouseCooper.
Scottish TUC general secretary Roz Foyer commented: “While this is only a small contract, beginnings matter. South of the border, the past year has seen the continued growth of the consultancy gravy train with massive contracts awarded to companies with clear interests in private-sector provision of public services. We do not want this replicated in Scotland.”
How can a National Care Service be funded?
The Scottish government points to the inadequate provision of social care by local authorities, completely failing to acknowledge the harm inflicted by decades of cuts to council funding.
Only with proper funding can local authorities build up the infrastructure that would allow them to absorb, in a National Care Service, not only the current private/third sector provision of social care in the medium term, but also the increasing demands on social care in the long term.
The government, say campaigners, should ring-fence resources to provide good-quality care and fair pay and working conditions to carers, who should be respected as skilled workers. Collective bargaining must be set up immediately to agree national pay and conditions between a National Care Service and trade union representatives, and to provide regular high-quality training.
Common Weal, a Scottish-based “think-and-do tank”, argues in its Manifesto for a National Care Service that private providers should be bought out, as happened when the NHS was set up, but over time.
Given the parasitic nature of private care, isn’t there an argument for a more radical move? Private providers could be offered a role in a publicly-funded system, subject to stringent checks, but they should not be offered compensation.
Free at the point of need
On charging for care, the Common Weal Manifesto says: “All charges for care would be abolished. The National Care Service should be funded from the public purse, either from tax or a new national insurance scheme based on a universal “pooling of risks” with all contributing as per their income, irrespective of the care they may or may not receive.”
In accommodation-based services, Common Weal argues, “people would be expected to contribute a portion of their income […] [they] would no longer be required to sell their assets to pay for residential care.
“The funding shortfall should be met through a more equitable system of inheritance tax, in which the rich pay more than those who bought their council houses, or through other taxes.”
What about local control and accountability?
The Scottish government proposes that under a new care service, local councils would hand over ALL their current social care and social work responsibilities to management bodies called Integrated Joint Boards.
These have already been in place for some years, and they have been proved not to work. Elected councillors do sit on them, but in practice get overruled on local decisions.
And the government’s new care service would be ultimately accountable to a government minister, meaning more centralisation and less ability to create and administer services at a local level, where they are most effective. Common Weal describes the government’s NCS as “an attempted power grab by central government and a further assault on local democracy”.
Campaigners envisage an NCS run by local authorities, as the existing democratically elected and accountable bodies, but also call for a further devolution of care services to local community hubs, which “can actively involve service providers, those needing care and those with lived experience to create local, flexible, inclusive services”, as the Edinburgh Trades Union Council (TUC) response to the government’s proposals put it.
The idea of community hubs as centres for public service delivery and voluntary activity has been revived during the pandemic. “Notions of community empowerment already enshrined in law”, Common Weal says, “ought to be compatible with the decentralisation of public services and bottom-up community partnership and control. The National Care Service that Scotland needs could be managed and delivered at local level through community hubs.”
Above all, providers, workers in the service, and users, have to be involved in the planning and management of social care. “People in Scotland deserve far better”, says one of the Common Weal team, “but we will not get that so long as those responsible for the current system are responsible for redesigning it”.
We plan to publish a range of ideas about alternatives to the current way local government and local services are run in Edinburgh. Here we link to a slideshow by Mike Cowley that looks at examples of Wealth Retention and Democratic Localism.
The Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board, which organises integrated health and social care in the city, met on Tuesday 28th September. The meeting time and date had been changed twice at short notice. You might think that the board was trying to evade protest. In the event there were rallies outside the City Chambers, both in the morning at 9.30 and again at 2.30. The campaign to save public care homes has had an impact. But despite the opposition the board proceeded to confirm the closure of the Dumbrae home – which they intend to transfer to the NHS as a more specialised facility. From the outset the board, and the City Council have tried to exclude Dumbrae from the list of homes scheduled for closure – continually referring to four homes slated for closure. Our view has been simple – there were nine publicly run care homes in Edinburgh – if the board gets its way there will be four. That’s five closures however, you dress it up.
So what about the other four homes? The board talks about a ‘comprehensive consultation’ on the closure of the four homes, but it is not going to happen anytime soon. The EIJB will discuss it again at their October meeting and will consult with the City Council and Lothian Health. At the board meeting there seemed to be agreement that there will be two parallel and linked consultations. One will be on the four homes closure issue and the other will be on the overall social care provision in Edinburgh up until 2030. Once the nature of the consultations have been decided they will will last three months. There will then be a period of evaluation (perhaps a month according to officials) followed by the writing of a report for the EIJB. It seems that the EIJB is going to postpone an actual decision on the four homes until after the local authority elections in May 2022.
In these circumstances it’s really important to keep up the campaign in the context of a vision of a publicly run and democratically accountable service that meets the needs of Edinburgh residents. We will discuss next steps in the campaign at our meeting on Thursday October 7th at 6.30pm.
Unison issues this Press Statement following the board meeting
Care home closure is ‘slap in the face’ to Edinburgh’s most vulnerable, says UNISON
UNISON, the union for carers, has expressed deep dismay at the decision to close an Edinburgh care home. The decision was passed by the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB) – which commissions health and social services from the City – at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday). UNISON, Scotland’s largest union, has been campaigning to prevent the closure of five council-run Edinburgh care homes, including Drumbrae. A further four council-run homes – Ferrylee, Clovenstone, Fords Road and Jewel House are all being earmarked for closure but subject to public consultation. Tom Connolly, UNISON Edinburgh City branch secretary, said: “The people of Edinburgh can feel very let down by this decision to close a much-needed local service, not least the elderly and vulnerable who reside in the care home and now face an uncertain future. “UNISON will continue its campaign to save public sector-run care homes and prevent them going into private hands. People need to come before profit and UNISON will continue its fight to save Edinburgh’s public run care homes and call for all private run care homes to be brought into the public sector.”Greig Kelbie, UNISON regional organiser, said: “The decision to close Drumbrae was made without any public consultation and is a real slap in the face to the most vulnerable people in the city. “UNISON understands there is a substantial waiting list for homes in the area, so if the need hasn’t gone away then why should the services?”
The Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board met to discuss proposals for care home closures today (28th September). Campaigners made online deputations (statements) to the meeting.
There were two statements from the Edinburgh Trade Union Council.
The first from Des Loughney:
My name is Des Loughney, Secretary of Edinburgh Trade Union Council. My colleague is Kathy Jenkins who is a delegate to Edinburgh TUC. We would like to thank the Board for agreeing to hear our deputation and our comments on the paper that is item 4. I will speak for a few minutes and Kathy for the rest.
A some of you will know we had a deputation to the full City Council meeting on Thursday 23/9/21. We listened to the debate on the Council’s amended coalition motion including the comments by EIJB members. We are not sure what were the consequences of the Council adopting the motion. Has the EIJB been sent the motion accompanied by a presume a covering letter? Will the EIJB formally consider the Council resolution?
On the assumption that the EIJB has knowledge of the Council motion we draw your attention to the clause (2) which reads:
2) To request the consultation should be as comprehensive as possible covering all aspects of the bed-based review and include the Trade Unions as well as care home residents, their families and/or their support workers or carers, current care home staff and the wider public.
It seems to us that in the Report that is before you today doubts are expressed about the legal power of the EIJB to carry out the comprehensive consultation that is defined in the Council motion. There must be doubts on the EIJB’s capacity to carry out a comprehensive consultation. In the circumstances we are of the view that the EIJB should ask the City Council to carry out the consultation. An advantage of this route is that the consultation is much more likely to address public and trade union concerns. After what happened earlier this year we do not have any confidence that a consultation run by the EIJB will address trade union and public concerns. The EIJB seems solely concerned to persuade the public to accept its proposed plan. Read the rest here.
The second from Kathleen Jenkins
Thank you for the opportunity to address you at what is clearly a crucial time for social care in Edinburgh. I have spoken to you at your June and August meetings. I would like to reiterate some of what I said then and make some additional points.
Your documents and proposals deal only with NHS and local authority facilities and yet, we know from a recent FOI request that in relation to residential care for those over 60:
203 are cared for in LA homes 241 are cared for in not for profit sector homes 1464 are cared for in private sector homes
And yet there is nothing in your documents and proposals regarding the future of the last two sectors.
In relation to care at home (all ages) 880 people receive LA care at home 1229 people receive not for profit sector care at home 3188 people receive private sector care at home Read the rest here.
In our next post we’ll look at the outcomes of the EIJB meeting.
We asked Edinburgh City Council eight questions about how care provision in Edinburgh is distributed between the public and private sectors. They answered six of our questions. We will be getting back to them about the two they didn’t answer. We wanted to know about the number of private organisations contracted by CEC to provide care at home – the council must know this. The responses we have so far show how skewed care is to the private sector.We believe that there is no place for profit in care.
Here is the text of the council’s response
Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 – Release of Information
Subject: Care provision In Edinburgh
Thank you for your request for information of 23/08/2021. Your request has been processed and considered under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the information is provided below.
Your request and our response:
Q1. How many (elderly, > 60 years old) people are currently being cared for in residential care run by the local authority in the City of Edinburgh?
203 at the end of August.
Q2. How many (elderly, > 60 years old) people are currently being cared for in residential care run privately in the City of Edinburgh?
1,464 at the end of August.
Q3. How many (elderly, > 60 years old) people are currently being cared for in residential care run by voluntary/ not-for-profit organisations in the City of Edinburgh?
241 at the end of August.
Q4. How many people are currently receiving care at home from local authority services in the City of Edinburgh? How many hours of care are currently provided by this sector?
Q7. How many private organisations currently provide care at home in Edinburgh?
Q8. How many not for profit organisations currently provide care at home in Edinburgh?
Unfortunately, we are unable to provide you with the information for questions 7 & 8 because it is not held by the Council. The Care Inspectorate hold details of organisations who provide care services.
You can make sure everyone in Scotland is looked after properly by giving your input.
A response can take as little as ten minutes.
The deadline for this is 2 November 2021.
The consultation is long & complex.
If you are short of time just answer Questions 1 & 2 on page 15 – suggested answers below – you can copy and paste or copy and edit to personalise your response
Q1. What would be the benefits of the National Care Service taking responsibility for improvement across community health and care services?
Tick all the boxes
Other – please explain below
A NCS would have the potential to bring these benefits, but only if partnered with Local Authorities who have the capacity to work with their communities to create local, flexible, inclusive services (and who are democratically elected and accountable to their populations).This would depend on the NCS introducing National Sectoral Collective Bargaining to ensure good education, training, pay and conditions to social care workers.
Q2. This consultation and the National Care Service which will result from it may very well be superficial and not lead to real and sustained improvements in care provision.
There is a recognition that there is a need to improve community health and social care and that current structures are inadequate. If we are serious about good practice, ‘suggestions for significant cultural and systemic change’ have to be explored. This consultation does not allow for such an exploration.
For an effective care service we need to take profit out of care, improve pay & conditions for workers, make care local & accountable, ensure adequate funding and make care a free service.