We are just two days out from the annual Scottish Care, Care at Home and Housing Support Conference which will be held in Glasgow on Friday 18th May. If you haven’t already got your tickets there is still time to join us at what looks to be an intriguing and enjoyable day.

This year’s conference is entitled ‘Practical promise: making the vision of home care real.’

The word promise is an interesting one. In strict definitional terms a ‘promise’ is a ‘transaction between two persons where the first person undertakes in the future to render some service or gift to the second person’

What’s that got to do with care in someone’s home? – I would suggest everything.

At a very basic level the concept of promise is at the heart of the human exchange which good care and support offers. Every time an act of care takes place there is a service offered and a gift exchanged. Not a gift in the literal sense but the gift of support and person-led care which enables an individual to live their life to the full. At its heart that is what good home care is – it is an enabling process which offers an individual the prospect and ability to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.

All too often in some of the debates I take part in about the future of care and support in our community there is a presumption that care at home and housing support are about maintenance – keeping people safe and healthy. Of course, that is part of the story, but it is by no means the whole.

People who require to be supported in their own home require that support not just to keep healthy but to enable them to lead as fulfilling and as rewarding lives as possible. Life does not just stop with a diagnosis it moves to a different level. Affective, human-centred care at home and housing support is about providing the support to enable people to still dream their dreams, achieve their goals, and create their future. Homecare should never be seen as maintenance – it is always about the promise of a life still to be lived; good homecare is not about a set of tasks to be performed but enabling people through support to achieve their full potential, regardless of age.

The relationship of care is infused with promise at its very centre. It says that I as I support you and care for you, I will be here to make sure that you have a life which is as full and meaningful as possible; that you are not limited by your need of care or support, that you have contribution to make and abilities to share.

But there is also another sense to the word promise which will no doubt be reflected upon during our conference on Friday – and that is the degree to which a promise has a future orientation and perspective. Within the word promise there is a sense of hope, of expectation, of things yet to be achieved… a sense that things will be better and that new direction will be found.

The care at home and housing support sector is at a critical juncture in Scotland at the present time. We are living and working in extremely challenging financial environments, and with great uncertainty and fear for the sustainability of the care at home and housing support sector. But there needs to be promise.

With political conviction and appropriate financial investment, the future direction can indeed be one of promise. Rather than disintegration and paralysis. There simply has to be a future vision of homecare where grounded in the realities of day to day care-giving, we can create a social care system in Scotland which values the human rights of the individual, treats all with dignity and respect regardless of their chronological age, and which seeks to ensure that the individual person is in control not only of their care but of the direction in which they want their living and dying to move. There has to be a vision which gets us beyond the reckoning of support by segments of time for allotted tasks, which seeks to purchase that care at the cheapest price and pays lip service to the principles of choice, control and involvement of the supported person.

We all know what the ‘promise of care’ in the future needs to look like. It is a rooted, grounded practical vision of a Scottish society which cares and manifests that care not just in word but in action. The time is surely here for fulfilling that promise and building that vision into practical reality rather than uttering yet more pious platitudes.

That is the promise – a system which would make all of us who do the work of care and support rightly proud – a social responsibility for a nation. Join us as we continue creating that practical vision rooted in the promise of dignified support and care.

Dr Donald Macaskill

@DrDMacaskill