This article by Jonathan Russell is dedicated to Bill Knight, relentless campaigner and founder and Chair of Grampian Senior Citizens Forum, a great example to us all. Bill Knight died on February 7th aged 92.
Aberdeen has a particularly worrying situation due to high employment and a high cost of living which means that there is a shortage of the low paid staff who do this outstanding and highly undervalued work.
We have an increasing ageing population. Policies like free personal care – though good in themselves – have led to an increased deficiency in other resources to support the elderly.
Aberdeen used to have a home care service which was second to none but what has happened here, as in all parts of the UK, is that the majority of services have been outsourced to private companies who pay less and often provide poor support to their workers.
To have 13 companies providing care is also highly inefficient in covering a city the size of Aberdeen. We have a situation where all these companies are trying to provide services across the city. This is madness. The culture has changed from one of providing services to rushing round to find services of any kind.
The introduction of individual budgets, again aimed at cost cutting, will further complicate this process. We have to ask ourselves: do we value the elderly in our society and the staff who care for them ? Are we willing to increase taxation to pay for services that provide good value not only in terms of money but in terms of care?
We need to create a management culture and direct service culture which is about service and services that are localised rather than spread out around the city. More localised services allow greater flexibility in terms of need and less time would be wasted in the form of travel.
The problem is primarily a national one and has been avoided for much too long. Aberdeen has extra challenges and no doubt local politicians and staff do their best but without increased money and a change in the way we are providing services we are heading for an ever increasing problem with disasters on the way.
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