Very productive and informative meeting with Seb and his colleagues at Vocal (Voice Of Carers Across Lothian) this week. If Health and Social Care Integration and Self Directed Support are to work and we achieve our ambition of more community based care services and less unnecessary time spent in hospital then the role of carers, often close family members, is crucially important. And not just because of the important work they do, but because they have vital experience that should inform our policy making and preparation for the two initiatives mentioned above. I think we have come a long way in recognising the voice of carers, the recent appointment of our Carers Champion for example, but we need to continue the joint work going forward. I was keen to reiterate that if we do make mistakes (not unheard of) that Vocal and other carer organisations need to tell us so that we can get things back on track quickly. I look forward to working with Vocal and others in the months and years ahead.
Wester Hailes Community Council on Wednesday evening where we had a lengthy discussion about the underpass/link from the new Healthy Living Centre to the Shopping Centre. We've run into problems again and I share the CC's disappointment and frustration that we keep running into issues and can't make the progress we need. Further thought is required. On a positive note the HLC itself is progressing well and looks very impressive.
On Friday I attended my first meeting of the Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty at the CoSLA offices in Edinburgh. We discussed a paper that analyses the impact of the Chancellor's Autumn statement (issued in mid December!) Among other things Gideon Osborne announced that various benefits will be capped at 1% increase each year rather than the rate of inflation (RPI or CPI). You wouldn't think the difference between 1% and 2.2% would make that much difference but you'd be surprised, I was. Shocked actually, based on a basket of only 5 benefits (tax credit calculations are still to be added) Edinburgh will lose over £3.1m each year with the overall figure for Scotland £35m. That's £35m directly out of the pockets of the poorest people in Scotland. 'Tis the season of goodwill to all ? Aye, right.