Accountability – the elephant in the roomType: Blogs
Topic: Care regulation | Disability rights | Policy and legislation
Published on: 29th June 2021
This month marked my first anniversary as Director of Camphill Scotland. Starting a new role during the Covid pandemic was difficult and different for many reasons. We’re a membership organisation, here to support and serve eleven similar but unique Camphill communities across Scotland. As your needs and focus changed to accommodate the severity of the pandemic, so did ours. I have found myself on steering groups and around virtual tables which I could not have anticipated eighteen months ago.
I’m new to a sector at a time when its capacity to cope has been squeezed to its limits by a global crisis – ergo I have spent more time listening than in any other job. Whether it is on the weekly CCPS membership call (which has played a critical role in helping us to support you with up-to-date information on issues such as testing, vaccinations and day services) or being part of the many consultations during the Feeley Review (which has led to the plan for a National Care Service for Scotland), I have spent lots of time listening to people who have worked in social care for many years. They are dedicated, passionate people with a ton of professional and personal experiences behind them.
It has therefore come as a surprise to me how little we talk about accountability as a sector. What happens when things go wrong, especially when we’re talking about mistakes in care, can be an incredibly uncomfortable conversation to have. It’s also where the change will happen. I find this exciting. Yet it is very rarely discussed in the social care sector.
Last week the ALLIANCE held a meeting between CEO’s who were involved in the Feeley Review consultation and Kevin Stewart MSP (the newly appointed Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care). It was a positive, energetic meeting and for the first time since I joined Camphill Scotland my mindset was firmly placed in the future, instead of in the immediate shadows of Covid. The Minister is clearly in listening mode and he repeatedly spoke about ensuring that we get it right for everyone.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we – society – will not get it right for everyone. Not first time, at least. What’s important is that we have systems in place which can course correct when things aren’t handled well. That’s what’s missing from social care and at this stage I don’t see the National Care Service addressing accountability either.
Camphill communities know this only too well, as we witness people with learning disabilities facing cuts to their day opportunities. The positive impacts on their mental health, the ability to access meaningful work and to build skills and the opportunity to meet up with people who they care about in a place that they feel safe in (plus the essential respite which this provides for carers) – all of it on hold, with the real threat that it may not be reinstated. I have joined our communities and families in fighting to keep these essential services and have raised it at every level in local and national government. It shouldn’t be this hard.
I am writing to the Minister to ask him to meet with me to discuss the concept of what happens when things go wrong. This is not something that we should be scared about discussing, but rather we should be excited about the possibilities that could come from addressing accountability.
Covid has shone an unforgiving spotlight onto the social care sector, or more accurately the systems which are there to protect, support and champion the rights of people in vulnerable settings or situations. When families begin to tell me about how their local authority fixed a problem, rather than fought with them over it, that’s when we’ll know we’re beginning to get it right.