Council candidates asked to consider care

Mel Groundsell

The Western Isles Community Care Forum (WICCF), a registered charity representing Third Sector care providers across the Western Isles, has written to candidates to set out the financial pressures that local care groups are under.

The letter details an average 66% gap in funding, with some organisations receiving as little as 10% of their funds from the statutory bodies responsible for social care delivery in the Western Isles.

WICCF Chair, Morag Munro, said: “While members are grateful for the financial support they receive from the IJB, Comhairle and NHS, the gap between this support and their expenditure has increased dramatically over the years. This is due mainly to the fact that there has been no uplift to the amount received since 2013. In the meantime costs have increased and demand continues to increase due to our ageing population, more people being cared for in their own homes, an increase in the number of people with dementia, a reduction in the number of family carers and extended family and a lack of workforce in the care sector.

Organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to access funding to close the gap. We are very dependent on the generosity of our community, but they are also struggling. Funders are generally reluctant to fund core costs or services which they perceive to be the responsibility of statutory services and are often only interested in new initiatives.

Fundraising puts a great deal of pressure on organisations and involves staff in spending a large proportion of their time in trying to make ends meet – time which could be better used for the benefit of the vulnerable in our communities.”

Mrs Munro also raised the issue of funding cycles, highlighting the difficulty of forward planning when funding allocations are delivered on a year to year basis.

Another local group, the Disability Advocacy Collective (DAC), has invited candidates to a series of ‘zoom hustings’, to share their members’ concerns and to hear for themselves what prospective councillors have to say on cuts in social care service delivery, respite services and assisted transport.

The DAC is made up of the Speak Out Group (18 adults with a learning disability), Advocacy Western Isles, Autism Eilean Siar, Enable WI Branch, Harris Disability Access Panel, carers and service users. In its letter to candidates, the Collective highlighted the significant underspend in social care, stating: “In the last reporting period, there were 444 care hours undelivered every week as a result of carer shortfall, leaving desperate families across the WI without the full support they need.”

The IJB’s own meeting papers state: “…projected underspend of £217k in the homecare services. This is mostly due to the level of vacancies held, net underspend of £614k, offset by projected agency costs of £342k. The budget already assumed a £250k saving from vacancy so the underspend in staffing is actually £864k less the agency cost.”

Both groups have addressed their pleas direct to the candidates standing for office in the hope that if elected, they will prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.