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Councillor calls for shift in care provision

By Alasdair Fraser

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Councillor Linda Munro.
Councillor Linda Munro.

A LEADING figure in Highland Council’s strategy on care for the elderly is advocating a radical shift away from the use of private homes.

Councillor Linda Munro, chairwoman of the social care committee, wants root and branch reform to encourage more community-led solutions.

With 15 years’ personal experience in residential and community care, Cllr Munro said the Highlands had a good track record in care, but she believes the coronavirus pandemic has cast into sharp focus how removing people from their own homes and communities impacts quality of life.

It is estimated more than a third of Scotland’s coronavirus-related deaths so far have occurred in care homes.

Cllr Munro acknowledged any change would require significant investment, but believes it is achievable with public and political support.

She said: “There will always be a need for care homes, but that should be at the very highest end of need. I believe most care can, and should, be delivered in communities.

“By care in the community I don’t just mean people being warm, comfortable, clean and fed. I mean them remaining very much part of the community.

“If we get it right I do think people requiring care would enjoy an improved quality of life. If we could change the mindset, what a different Highlands we would be.”

Cllr Munro pointed to technology such as Fit Homes, tailored to care needs, as integral to her idea.

She added: “One of the most heartening aspects of this crisis is how quickly communities became super efficient and resilient, providing for neighbours with kindness and generosity.

“We were slow off the mark in recognising the role of home carers and community care. There is an opportunity, now, to think how it can be done better. I’m not saying leave it to families and communities. It still needs to be financed and regulated.

“The first shift that’s required is in mindset, then funding will follow.”

There was criticism of Cllr Munro’s comments from Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, the membership organisation representing more than 400 private, not-for-profit and charitable care providers.

“At a time when organisations are struggling to keep people alive, anybody using the present crisis as the vehicle for political observation needs to examine themselves,” he said.

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