Nobody really expected the £300 million Change Fund, which makes up just 1.5% of our spending on older people’s care, to transform the way we care for our elderly overnight. This week’s Audit Scotland report, however, is a warning that must be heard and considered in the final debate on the bill the government hopes will integrate health and social care.
The report has found that while the Change Fund has enabled partnership work between the NHS, councils and third sector and independent providers it has resulted in only small-scale initiatives with little opportunity to replicate success. This is the really disappointing element of this analysis and it will be a shocking waste if projects that have a big impact on the lives of older Scots are simply forgotten.
Anecdotally, and through the pages of TFN, we know there have been some highly successful and innovative Change Fund projects. One example that springs to mind is Edinburgh Voluntary Organisation Council’s Canny wi’ Cash participatory funding project. It hit the mark on giving control to older people, who voted for the local services they wanted to fund, as well as directing money into community services that boost older people’s health and wellbeing.
The third sector proves time and again that it is able to meet the needs of older people from initiatives such as Luminate, the Age Scotland-run arts festival for older people, housing associations running computer literacy classes and credit unions.
Change needs to happen much faster if we are to improve lives for older people
In the grand scheme of things these are tiny projects, but they are the kind of things that need to be rolled out nationally.
Audit Scotland’s report is clear – change needs to happen much faster if we are to improve lives for older people and ensure that caring for the aging population doesn’t cripple us financially. The Public Bodies (Joint Working) Bill is an important step in speeding up this agenda and forcing the NHS and councils to work more closely. But as the Scottish Government and MSPs prepare for the final debate later this month, they need to ask themselves whether it will create the level of change required. The fear is that if neither of these two behemoths will concede territory to each other, they are far less likely to do so to the third or independent sectors.
Third sector organisations want to see a much bigger role for the sector in the local health and social care partnerships outlined in this bill. This report shows why the third sector should be at the heart of health and social care integration and why its role should be outlined in law as just as important as the NHS and councils.