Parties contest social care ahead of local elections in Scotland

A commitment to driving up social care standards has been among the key issues embraced by parties in Scotland, as communities place their votes in the local elections today.

Ruling party the SNP last week launched a ‘mini-manifesto’ that showcased the party’s dedication to “Scotland’s unsung heroes”. The mini-manifesto announced support for the appointment of Carers’ Champions, whose role will be focused on bridging the gap between carers and local councils to ensure the sector’s professionals are better supported.

The SNP are also promising more support for unpaid and kinship carers, which includes reaching out to younger generations. Campaign director Derek Mackey commented: “SNP councils will work together to improve the quality of carers’ lives – when we work together across the public sector we can deliver more.”

This commitment is an issue on which the SNP and Scottish Labour have locked horns, with Labour having last week accused First Minister Alex Salmond of failing to deliver on a promise to spend £10m on helping kinship carers, although the SNP Government claims to have exceeded its previous target to deliver 10,000 hours of respite care.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservative Party focused on the implementation of direct payments as the issue on which they would like to see most progress, saying: “We deeply admire the work of carers across Scotland and want to see councils develop closer working relationships with them and local carer organisations.

“We strongly believe in the principle of direct payments and we want to see them extended across the fullest range of services.

“The disappointing level of enthusiasm for direct payments by many councils has been a running theme for years and one that has stifled a much-needed boom.

“While there have been improvements over past years, further legislation is needed to ensure a much greater take up.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrats’ own ‘local manifesto’ gave specific commitments to different regions, favouring approaches that allow for more independent living amongst older people, the implementation of new technology and the prioritisation of dementia care provision.

Party leader Willie Rennie commented: “One of the biggest challenges facing councils is demographic change which is why proper reform of elderly care services is one of our key priorities for local government. With a growing elderly population we need to improve care services and make sure that the vital work that carers do is recognised.

“Liberal Democrat councillors have a strong record of action across Scotland. Fife Council has been judged to have the best care services in the UK and in Highland Council we worked with NHS Highland to provide joined-up care for elderly people and children.

“I have seen first-hand the remarkable work that carers do and am committed to improving the support available for the thousands of carers across Scotland. Carers deserve this help and they need it now.”

Local election results are expected to be declared between midnight and 8pm on Friday.