Media release: Appeal made to government on behalf of families who employ personal carers – and their carers


A LEADING social care charity is appealing to the Scottish Government to remember families who receive care in their own homes, and the carers who provide that care, during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to Jeanne Freeman, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, the chief executive of the Scottish Personal Assistant Employers Network (SPAEN), Colin Millar, pictured, calls for action to urgently address what he describes as a “crisis”.

He writes: “We are writing on behalf of SPAEN’s 500 Direct Payment employers and the 1,500 or so others throughout Scotland who have chosen to use a Direct Payment or Option 1 to meet their social care needs.

“We are receiving frequent requests for information, advice, support and calls for SPAEN to raise these continued concerns and matters with the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament and CoSLA as the body representing the local authority councils distributing these funds to PA employers.

“The experience of Direct Payment users in Scotland is harrowing and deeply concerning.

“They continue to report that they have little or no access to PPE and they are getting no information or updates on when or how this will be resolved.

“They continue to be fearful for themselves, their families and loved ones and their employees, their employees’ families and loved ones, all of whom risk their own health and welfare on a daily basis to provide key social care services to people in their own homes and who are placed at unnecessary risk of transmission of this virus due to a lack of PPE.

“Direct Payment employers want to follow, fully, the Scottish Government’s published guidelines on the use of PPE but they cannot do so without being given access to the vital equipment they need.

“Some callers to local authority councils are being advised to use their ‘current supply chain’ to access this. Many Direct Payment employers will not have a ‘supply chain’, they will be purchasing PPE on an ad hoc basis as and when required and permitted through the Direct Payment agreement.

“The normal suppliers are not able to meet the demand as commissioning is done at a strategic level either through the HSCP or the Scottish Government, resulting in a scarcity of PPE for people who are not supplied via these statutory bodies.

“We are aware that a number of other charities and organisations have made similar representations to the Scottish Government.

“While we do not represent unpaid carers, we have seen a huge increase in contact from these groups who are also deeply concerned that they are unable to access support or PPE.

“While we are in a period of crisis, and this is without doubt such a period, we are calling for a fundamental review into how Direct Payment recipients in Scotland are represented and supported at national and regional level at the earliest opportunity.

“After 20 years’ of representing Personal Assistant Employers across the length and breadth of Scotland, thanks to the support of the Scottish Parliament and contemporary Scottish Governments, this year SPAEN’s services are being retracted, due to funding cuts. This outbreak calls into question the logic behind such a decision and we are calling on the Health & Sport Committee to review this decision at its earliest convenience.

“Without a national body representing PA employers, these and many similar issues will simply not be raised and people electing to exercise their right to use a Direct Payment, as per the current legislation, will be further eroded.

“Ironically, it is in times like these that many people assessed as requiring social care support are seeking Direct Payments as care agencies and local authority run home care services are withdrawn or re-assessed with little or no notice or consultation.

“We’ve had repeated requests from people affected by decisions to remove their existing social care support either through care agencies or local authority home and support services where staff absenteeism has presented significant logistical challenges.

“We have requested and continue to lobby for Direct Payments to be made available to anyone and everyone who has an assessed social care need and specifically as a direct alternative where existing social care arrangements are being withdrawn as a result of Covid-19 or related resource issues.

“Peoples’ social care needs cannot, unfortunately, be abated to accommodate resourcing issues and there has already been assurance from the Cabinet Secretary that no-one should lose the support they’re already assessed as requiring.

“SPAEN represents over 500 individual employers who have equal concerns and responsibilities.

“SPAEN would welcome any invitation to join the discussions being held by the Scottish Government to discuss the current challenges facing all of social care to ensure our membership and the many hundreds of others using Direct Payments are fully and properly represented.”

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Contact: David Sinclair