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Caring for those who need it, and those who provide it: a new National Outcome for Scotland

Care has been historically under-valued, and that remains the case today. However, the pandemic has highlighted and heightened the severe strain faced by too many people looking after someone – whether paid carers, low-income parents and guardians, or those caring for people with additional needs. Too many people who provide care, particularly women who do the vast majority of caring, are facing the daily injustice of poverty or live on the precipice of it.

We must better value and invest in care, and all those who provide it.

That’s why Oxfam Scotland, Scottish Care, One Parent Families Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Budget Group and the seven National Carer Organisations – including Carers Scotland, Carers Trust Scotland, the Coalition of Carers in Scotland, Crossroads Caring Scotland, MECOPP (Minority Ethnic Carers of Older People Project), Shared Care Scotland and the Scottish Young Carers Service Alliance –  are jointly calling for a generation-defining commitment through a new National Outcome on valuing and investing in care.

The previous Scottish Government said that the 11 National Outcomes in their National Performance Framework described “the kind of Scotland it aims to create”. The Framework is important because it increasingly steers policy and spending decisions in Scotland and is how success is measured. Yet none of the Outcomes were focused on care, despite its critical importance to people’s wellbeing and to our society and the economy that serves it. In fact, it was hard to see where care and carers featured.

The last Scottish Government said the NPF is “guided by values of kindness, dignity and compassion” and that while there is not a specific National Outcome focused on care, those “related to Human Rights, Fair Work and Business, Health, and Communities ensure that care is valued and invested in.”

However, as we seek to recover from COVID-19, we believe the new Scottish Government should place a dedicated Outcome on care at the visible heart of a refreshed NPF. A specific National Outcome on care would lock-in expressions of political and public solidarity with those providing care, both paid and unpaid, during the pandemic. Crucially, it would help to join-the-dots between positive individual measures and new promises made so that care as a whole is at the heart of how success is measured in Scotland. In taking this step, Scotland can demonstrate leadership across the UK and internationally where care is similarly undervalued. 

But what should that new National Outcome say? And how should we measure progress?

We believe the design of this new National Outcome must be based on deep consultation with those providing and receiving care, as well as wider society. To kick-start this process, we are currently consulting on what a National Outcome on Care would look to help deliver meaningful and long-lasting change, including protecting people from poverty, while ensuring that progress towards better valuing and investing in care is transparently monitored.

Over this Summer – and with the expert academic support of the University of the West of Scotland, delivered as part of the UWS-Oxfam Partnership for a more socially just Scotland – we will talk with a range of stakeholders about what a new National Outcome focused on care could look like. These include unpaid and paid carers, organisations supporting and representing them, and other stakeholders working on this issue.

Please get in touch if you would like to know more about the project via the contacts.

Following this short consultation, we will present the results to the Scottish Government as a blueprint for what this National Outcome on Care could look like, and ask all Members of the Scottish Parliament to support the adoption of a National Outcome on Care within a refreshed National Performance Framework.

Why we are doing this now?

With a new Scottish Parliament from May 2021, we believe it is time to properly deliver on better valuing care in Scotland and that a National Outcome focused on care will help Scotland achieve this.

We were heartened during the pre-election period to hear warm words of support for carers from the five main political parties with each making encouraging manifesto commitments on care. In particular, we are delighted to have already secured the backing of Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens for a new National Outcome, with the Scottish Conservatives committed to giving it “serious consideration”.

Periodic reviews of the National Outcomes are legally required under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. The next review must commence by June 2023, and the previous Scottish Government said the timing and approach “will be a matter for the incoming administration”.

We hope this consultation will nurture cross-party momentum towards a National Outcome on Care.

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