How the social care sector can stay strong and weather the storm

Alan starrs meets theresa shearer cropped

​Theresa Shearer from Enable Scotland says the social care sector can weather the storm and emerge stronger, as it must for the people it helps

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25th November 2016 by TFN Guest 1 Comment

It was our annual general meeting on Saturday.

A chance for the Enable Scotland family to gather as one to celebrate our achievements and look forward to the 12 months ahead.

We’ve had a good year, as reported by Third Force News earlier this week. We’ve turned round a £1.2 million deficit to record a £400k surplus in 2015/16.

And all this in the face of the most challenging economic climate Enable Scotland, and the wider social care sector, has faced in living memory. And that we will continue to face.

I’ve talked over recent months about the triple-whammy facing the sector of a continuing squeeze on public sector funding, increased demand for personalised care, and the impact of the Scottish Living Wage. 

The perfect storm.

Theresa Shearer

Theresa Shearer

We are talking about the challenge to keep our sector strong for people at the eye of the storm

And I’ve called for social care providers across Scotland to “think differently” and consider working together, collaborating.

And yes, it’s important we address these issues – because if we don’t we are not serving the best interests of those we are paid to support.

What It’s All About

But it’s super important, as chief executives, that we don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s the people we support that are at the heart of all this. That is what it’s all about.

That’s what keeps me – and all the leaders that I know in this sector – awake at night.

But it is also what keeps me motivated every day. For me, every day, every decision, is about ensuring Enable Scotland provides the right support to people who have learning disabilities so they can live better lives.

That means great terms and conditions for staff so that we can retain the best people. That means job satisfaction. That means recognition and career progression.  And that means great lives for the people we support.

Along with my team, I joined leaders of many other social care organisations at the annual CCPS conference. Top of the agenda was the challenges facing the sector and how we will respond. 

Having spent some quality time with my staff and our members at our AGM on Saturday, I am clearer than ever on why we need to really work together and think differently about what we need to do to develop the social care sector. 

We know our sector. We have the answers. We also know best why we need to tackle the current situation – our people.

And so in this, my third article over the last two months on TFN, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the stories of three inspirational Enable Scotland people. 

The people who are at the eye of the social care perfect storm. They are why, when I wake up in the morning, I know exactly what I have to do that day.

#1: Freddie Morrison from Shotts

As colleagues we all pull together in so many ways in order to help the people we support live the life they choose.

And good co-workers are so important. 

Freddie Morrison, one of our personal assistants who support people who have learning disabilities, is a prime example.

He is someone whose positive attitude rubs off on others. Solving problems; always there to support and help.

One day, one of Freddie’s colleagues fell ill.

This meant that the person being supported would have needed to cancel a planned, and much looked forward to, holiday to Prague.

Freddie came to the rescue. He went off to the travel agent in his own time, booking and changing flights and stepping in.

He also sorted out all of the rotas to make it happen. He helped out his co-workers, and also of course the person being supported, putting all of their needs before his own.

I was proud to recognise Freddie’s achievements at our AGM on Saturday alongside our Honorary President Hazel Irvine.

#2: Alan Starrs from Glasgow

Alan Starrs is one of the nicest people you could meet.

His smile is infectious; he loves spending time with his friends, and takes a genuine interest in everyone he meets.

When I started working for Enable Scotland five years ago, one of the first things I did was form a focus group, where some of our members and people we support told me what they wanted from the organisation.

Alan was a member of this focus group, and told me in no uncertain terms what he wanted out of life, and how Enable Scotland could support this.

Fast forward to 2015 and I returned to Enable Scotland as chief executive officer.

And on my first day back I had the pleasure of meeting Alan, as he dropped into my office during my surgery drop-in session to say hello.

I was thrilled to hear that Alan had achieved all that he wanted from ENABLE Scotland, and that he was sitting across from me planning his next holiday.

#3: Bryan Jamieson from Edinburgh

When Bryan Jamieson, a personal assistant, visited the brother of David Hunter, who he supports, he found out David hadn’t been to the cinema for more than 30 years.

David’s brother told him he had tried to take David to the cinema, but he had rushed out when the lights went down and had not tried again.

Bryan managed to persuade David to go with him to the cinema, where he enjoyed seeing Batman V Superman, and now says that he will go again some time.

And since then, he’s also been to Edinburgh’s Playhouse to see Let it Be, The Beatles Story. David had never been in a theatre in his life but he loved every song in the show.

Bryan said: “Coming home in the car after the show David kept on saying ‘Thank you Bryan.’

“If he said it once he said over and over again. It was like I had given him a million pounds.

“I would have to say that this was the most rewarding day I have had as a personal assistant.”

Our challenge

I know that we are not speaking about OUR personal challenges as chief executives within this perfect storm that continues to swirl around us. 

We are talking about the challenge to keep our sector strong for people at the eye of that storm.   

People like Freddie, Alan, Bryan, and David.

We owe it to them to make our sector work. Not just in the short-term but the long-term too.

This situation won’t just go away. We now know that the Living Wage will increase to £8.45 next year. And we know that the Scottish Government is fully expecting sleepover rates to be addressed in next year’s negotiations. 

This is great news for all of our people. Let’s get talking now to make sure our sector can play our part in delivering this for each and every one of them.

Theresa Shearer is chief executive of Enable Scotland and on the board of directors of  the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

25th November 2016 by Sharon Kerrigan

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