In a blog which first appeared in Third Force News, ALLIANCE Chief Executive Ian Welsh OBE present the ALLIANCE’s manifesto for the General Election in June 2017.
AS politicians and the media continue to reel from the shockwaves of Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call a snap General Election, third sector health and social care organisations in Scotland are once again offered an opportunity to regroup and reconsider their priorities after a tumultuous couple of years.
Looking back over the recent hotspots of political debate – Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom and the subsequent progress of the Smith Agreement; the vote to leave the European Union and the triggering of Article 50; threats to the Human Rights Act; cuts to social security – there remain many challenges, opportunities and threats to the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland’s vision of a country where people can enjoy their right to live well. As candidates set out on the campaign trail, we have outlined eight key asks that we’d like to be at the forefront of their minds over the coming weeks, and beyond.
For example, the development of the Self Management Strategy for Scotland was driven by people with long term conditions, a key reason why it remains extremely relevant today as we approach the tenth anniversary of its publication. Whilst the existing political system at a UK level has, largely, been slow to embrace new methods of engagement and participation we would challenge candidates to commit to applying approaches like this in the future.Of key importance is strengthening the voice of disabled people, people living with long-term conditions and unpaid carers in the policy making process. In recent years, UK Government policy has had a detrimental impact on the lives of many disabled people in Scotland. However, enabling meaningful co-production in the policy making process and supporting people to determine the future of the support and services to which they have a right has been proven to have significant benefits.
Brexit will no doubt be the word on many people’s lips and the potential impact that leaving the EU could have in several areas cannot be underestimated – not least the rights to health, social protection and employment, amongst others. We should also recognise that decisions made amid the Brexit settlement could further destabilise the health and social care workforce ̶ many of whom come from other EU countries ̶ and as a result the future quality and availability of support and services.
Any threat to the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) must also be countered. The last UK Government’s pledge to “scrap the Human Rights Act and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights” is at odds with Scottish civil society, which co-convened Action Groups aimed at further embedding human rights in people’s every day experiences. With the future of the HRA still uncertain, the alliance wants to see election candidates committed to support an agenda which enables us to achieve our rights – not a new bill which has the potential to turn back the clock.
Finally, the future of social security in Scotland remains a key battleground. Whilst the Scottish Government continues to plan for a new Social Security Agency, the future of the reserved Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), accessed by more than 260,000 people in Scotland, remains uncertain. We oppose further cuts with the potential to push people living with long-term conditions and disabled people even deeper into poverty.
The coming weeks will be crucial to determining the future. Don’t miss the opportunity to tell the next UK Government where your priorities lie.
Ian Welsh OBE is Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)