Carers need to be prioritised says charity
A leading charity has raised concerns over an apparent Scottish Government U-turn which sees unpaid carers now no longer included in the first-wave of Covid-19 vaccinations.
The concern has been raised by Kindred, an advocacy organisation supporting parents of children with complex needs, which has warned of the impact on these children if their parents contract the virus and are unable to provide care.
The charity had made the vaccine call in a letter to health secretary, Jeane Freeman, on 11 November on the back of a report it published highlighting the “devastating” impact of the pandemic lockdown on families of children with exceptional health needs.
On 19 November Freeman noted that unpaid carers would be in the “first wave” of vaccinations, between December 2020 and February 2021.
However, on 3 December, in her statement to the Scottish Parliament she noted that, alongside those most vulnerable on an age and health basis, the “only sectoral exception [for vaccine priority] is for the health and social care workforce.”
On 4 December, it became clear in a vaccine stakeholder note from the Scottish Government Directorate for Mental Health and Social Care that “carers and their families are not included in the prioritisation list.”
Director of the charity, Sophie Pilgrim, has written to Freeman on the back of this apparent U-turn on her earlier commitment saying: “At this time of national crisis, it seems we are prepared to ignore the plight of our most vulnerable children. These children, with shorter lives, have lost out on therapy, education and social opportunities. Their parents, on whom they are totally dependent, are exhausted to the point of burnout.
“In Scotland, we pride ourselves in aspiring to be the ‘best country in the world for children to grow up’. We should dare to be different and stand up for our children who are most in need. I urge you to include unpaid carers amongst the first to receive the vaccine.”
The repeated call comes on the back of a survey undertaken of the parents of children with complex health needs.
Pilgrim added: “This apparent U-turn by the Scottish Government is deeply devastating news for the families of children with complex needs and life limiting conditions."
Alex Davey, from East Lothian, is a full time carer to her six-year-old son, Benjamin, who has complex medical needs including tube-feeding, epilepsy and overnight ventilation.
She has written a blog to highlight her disappointment and said: “My key concern as Benjamin’s mother is that my husband and myself contract Covid-19, rendering us incapable of meeting his complex care needs, potentially for a long period of time.
“Early access to the vaccine is therefore imperative to ensure that families like ours can be sure that they can continue to care for their child.
“One can therefore only imagine our joy when we heard that unpaid carers would be among the first wave to receive the vaccine. We cheered, we celebrated, we called each other up and cried tears of pure relief. We were no longer overlooked.
“In fact, we are not just overlooked, we were cruelly misled and our hopes were built up, only to be dashed.
“We cannot understand why the Scottish Government has reneged on its commitment and we would urge it to do the honourable thing and honour the original commitment made.”
The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.