Guest post by Pam Duncan-Glancy, Policy Officer for the Independent Living in Scotland project
There’s no doubt that social justice is the buzz term of the moment, and about time too! For disabled women like me, social justice means a lot of things, but a crucial part of it is about having access to enough, good quality and fairly funded social care. Without social care, I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, go to work, see friends, play my part in our society, put quite simply, I wouldn’t be healthy, and I wouldn’t have fair and equal access to society – and that’s not very socially just, is it?
It is largely because of enough good quality and fairly funded social care that I can work full time, play an active part in my local community, regularly (sometimes too regularly for some!) visit family and friends and generally have choice and control over the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ of my own life. All great, but guess what, it gets better! Because I use social care, seven other people are contributing to our society and are employed too – there are seven fabulous and never-praised-highly-enough strong women who work tirelessly between them to support me every day as my Personal Assistants. Now, they don’t get enough money – and that’s another soap box for another day – but they are in paid work, they are women filling an essential role in our society and they (most of the time I hope!) enjoy what they do. Because of my social care needs and package to support them, and their commitment to the job, eight (including me!) women are in work, contributing to our communities and economy, both in terms of employment and in immense social capital and crucially, we are all women being valued for what we give.
So why is it then, that a service that supports people into and provides employment, supports people to participate in society and lead an ordinary life and is an all-round essential part of the social fabric that can lead to a fair and equal (and healthier) society, is seen as a drain, a cost, a burden even? Why is it that social care is always the poor cousin when it comes to divvying up the coffers? How come the social value that comes both from having and providing enough good quality care and support isn’t recognised? And, how can we change this?
Those are questions that the project I work for, the Independent Living in Scotland project are trying to answer (at least in part). Between now and March 2016 ILiS are working with key stakeholders – including Engender – to set out our vision for social care, one that takes into account disabled people’s equality, human rights and independent living, and to highlight how this vision might be funded in the future.
This work excites me, not least because it needs done but because the story to tell needn’t be one to be afraid of, the story to tell is a good one. Disabled people and our allies have so much lived experience to share and I believe that in sharing it we can start to change the story from one that sees social care as merely a cost, to one where social care is valued as a key part of the fabric of a fair, equal, healthy and socially just nation.
A big ambition and a lot of work you say? Yes, it’s both, but the prize is bigger – a social care system in Scotland that is well and fairly funded, provides quality support and, here’s the best bit, is designed from the bottom up, by society, for society. This is not just something that people like me want, its one that we all need if we are to live in the socially just Scotland we all want, and I for one can’t wait to get started.
To join in discussions about how care policy in Scotland can contribute to gender equality, come along to Gender Matters: Equality and Inclusion through Care in Glasgow on October 13th.
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