Mince Pies and Mulled-Over Wine!!

Well its nearly here, the adverts have been telling us since Halloween finished and we’ve seen plenty of premature Christmas trees peeking through the windows with their dazzling array of lights, and music playing within the shopping centres and on the radio – Yes it’s time to put on weight and blow all your earnings – Sorry what I meant to say is its Christmas time, a time for joy and celebration, as well as looking back as we face another year, at the year that’s gone and the year to come!

One film comes to mind at this jolly time, yip the Sound of Music, a firm favourite for families to sit around watching and singing along to the wonderful uplifting songs, whilst they sit uncomfortably full around the TV.

The song “Climb every mountain” rings true for me. Many years ago when I managed a Church of Scotland older person’s home in Helensburgh, we were celebrating the care home’s 40th anniversary. One of the many events we had was a fund raiser climbing Ben Lomond. Please note this is the one and only Munro I’ve ever climbed and whilst it was hard going up, coming down was also a challenge! My excuse now is a knee problem, honest!!

If it were not for one of my staff, who literally talked to me all the way up the mountain, which kept me focussed and from turning back, enabling me to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. Was it worth it? Yes; I emotively recall the moment as we looked down upon the vista of Loch Lomond, eating our well-earned sandwiches!!

Well, as you rightly will be asking, nice story and what has this to do with me, working hard within the social care sector? The parallels with climbing over obstacles – I found going up step by step a real problem. For many working within social care, this year has been a tough one (of many)! As I accompanied Donald on his tour of the branches within Scotland, common themes emerged: many providers face challenges of recruitment and retention of staff, continuity of business due to financial viability, stress of working within a seemingly over regulated care sector, dealing with complexity of care and an ever demanding commissioned service at low rates of reward, to name but a few. Many excellent providers have decided enough is enough and given up on the provision of care, having worked hard to provide quality care and employment. It has not been easy to make that decision, but forced into it by circumstances in many cases, out with their control. We hear within Scottish Care that this is now a common occurrence, with 9 out of 10 providers facing stress and major obstacles in continuity of service and care.

As was highlighted at our recent events for Home Care and Care Homes, this is a crucial time for our sector, and we need to work together in partnership (not necessarily harmony), as we walk up the social care mountain together. There are organisations like Scottish Care who are like that staff member who with her incessant talking, kept me company, encouraging and guiding me to take the next step, to watch for the pitfalls of a jutting rock or smelly bog, and just kept me going. We need to work and walk together with our partners to ensure that we are united in a common concern, keeping our head in reality, but looking upwards to our goal, just around that next bend!

Partnership does not just mean our sector, but those partners within Scottish Government, regulators like SSSC and the Care Inspectorate, Integration Boards, and those within health and social care to name a few. A recognition that we need to work together, putting aside differences, unblocking barriers and seeing beyond political mountains and obstacles. The people in Scotland deserve the best care and support we can offer, and this must be matched up with proper resourcing of funds, recognition for the important, complex work we undertake, and being regarded as equal partners within the care system. In this way we can indeed:

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream………..

In my last blog I mentioned my newly qualified niece, a nurse who chose to leave the NHS and work with older persons in the care sector. She still works there, and is investigating further academic possibilities within the sector. In addition my son in law worked for a large national retailer (one that’s open 24 hours a day!) but recently decided on a career change. He is now flourishing working in a care home. He loves being able to help those who need and deserve a kind heart.

So let’s stop the tide of folk leaving our sector, and encourage others to join us in a worthwhile compassionate job with the rewards of caring for many in their twilight years!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hopefully a better New Year, so get those walking boots on, tie a rope round each other and together “climb that mountain”!

Swaran Rakhra