Covid in Scotland: Human rights in adult social care system ‘trampled over’

HUMAN rights of people receiving and delivering adult social care in Scotland have been “trampled over” during the coronavirus crisis – from frontline staff not provided with PPE, to contact denied between care home residents and their families, according to a think tank.

In its submission to the Independent Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland ordered by the Scottish Government, the Common Weal concludes there is a strong argument a National Care Service should be independent of the NHS.

The review – set up in September and due to report by next month – is being carried out by Frank Feeley, a former Scottish Government director general for health and social care and chief executive of NHS Scotland.

The Common Weal said it welcomed the review, but added: “We are concerned, however, that having been prompted in large part by the coronavirus disaster in Scotland’s care homes, which has to date accounted for almost half of all deaths in Scotland from Covid-19, the remit does not include consideration of what has gone wrong.

“While we believe the crisis of the last six months has been a long time coming – the failures were predictable – and it is therefore right to look at its structural causes, the recommendations of the report will need to be judged by the extent to which, if implemented, they might have prevented the current and ongoing crisis in social care, from inadequately trained staff to the denial of human rights.

“We therefore include in our submission a list of the failings in the social care system exposed by Covid-19, most of which should now be considered by the public inquiry into the care home disaster which the Scottish Parliament voted for on November 4. That reinforces the argument that the review cannot ignore the immediate crisis.”

The think tank said it was also concerned that the review was restricted to adult care with no reference to the Independent Care Review for Children, and about the timescales and practicality of what it was being asked to do.

It said timescales had made it impossible for the review to engage with stakeholders “except in a tokenistic way”, a task which had been made more difficult by the coronavirus restrictions.

The report continued: “We believe, therefore, that the review can be no more than a first step in a necessary process of reform and would hope … it identifies areas where more work, consultation and political engagement is required.”

Report author, Nick Kempe, said the review was wide-ranging and had already decided that human rights should be central to its recommendations.

However, he said: “It is doing this without considering how the human rights of people who receive and deliver social care services, who have been trampled over in the Covid-crisis, from the failure to provide frontline staff with proper PPE to the continued denial of contact between care home residents and their relatives … Addressing the lack of resources in social care, so that all who need care receive it, and ensuring that any National Care Service is about people, not profit, is a precondition for a human rights approach to work.”

Common Weal director, Robin McAlpine, added: “Over the course of this year nothing has hit me harder than the work Nick has done on care homes.

“It has left me totally committed to real and proper change for the sake of the older people in care in Scotland and for the sake of our shared humanity.”