02 February 2011

S3M-7667 Supporting Local Forums’ Involvement in Delivering Community Care

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S3M-7667, in the name of Rhoda Grant, on supporting local forums’ involvement in delivering community care. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the value of supporting local forums’ involvement in delivering community care; notes the research undertaken by the Inverness and Highland community care forums that highlights the vital role that lunch and social clubs play in supporting older people in the Inverness area; believes that these forums provide a vital service in creating and maintaining social networks and alleviating the effects of social isolation; considers that, when funding for the Highland Community Care Forum ceases in June, local forums will be left without any independent support and will not survive, and would therefore welcome an extension to Highland Community Care Forum’s present contract to cover the gap between the old contract and the new and a continuation of support for local forums through the new contract so that they continue to have a part to play in the delivery of future localised community care services and are able to undertake consultations on service provision independent of funders.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

I congratulate Rhoda Grant on giving us the opportunity to debate what is a very important subject for an increasing number of people across Scotland.

I represent a constituency in Aberdeenshire, which is less remote than the Highlands but where a higher proportion of the population live in a rural setting than is the case in the Highlands. Therefore, many of the issues that Rhoda Grant has delineated are familiar to people who live in Aberdeenshire.

It is important that we have in place mechanisms and structures that allow people to make a contribution to those in need. Voluntary arrangements whereby voluntary bodies deliver community care and are involved in its planning are an important part of ensuring that we have a focus on the needs of people in local communities. It is important that people in those communities are involved in the process.

I am not sure that I share some of Rhoda Grant’s concerns about how the council may choose to restructure things. I am not speaking about a council that is a political ally of mine, so I am entirely neutral from that point of view. It is certainly the case that we must ensure that we have arrangements in place that deliver the best value for the money that is available.

We should remind ourselves that the current budget, on which we will make a decision next week, includes some £70 million for a change fund in health and social care, so everyone who chooses to vote against the budget next week will be voting against the provision of money to ensure the appropriate kind of change.

It is important that there is a voice for older people. I am not the only member whose years are marching on more rapidly than they used to and who has seen parents in the system—albeit that, in my case, that was some distance back. It is important that we reduce red tape and improve joint working. Today’s announcement of £2 million for a system of lead commissioning is part of how we can tackle the issue.

There is no question that the care budget is enormous. Because the pressure on it from the rising proportion of our society who are aged will continue to increase, it is important that we leverage voluntary action into caring for our people, but we should not imagine that that is particularly new. I was involved in voluntary action many decades ago and I know that the same is true of other members. Today, however, we expect a great deal of the voluntary sector, which is why it is important that we support it by ensuring that lunch clubs and social events for older people are supported and that there are links between older people and younger people so that we do not simply create an environment in which people who are already close to those in need provide additional care.

I very much agree that we are debating an extremely important subject and I look forward to hearing what the minister has to say on it.

I see that Richard Simpson is likely to speak in the debate and I encourage him to speak to his colleagues about the proposed national care service, which kind of runs against the proposals that we have heard discussed today. Such a service is essentially centralising, which is one reason why it would not have my support. Nonetheless, considerable discussion is to be had between now and the May election; tonight’s debate will be a little part of that.


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