The importance of cross-party support

As a small independent Scottish charity, it’s really important for Leuchie House to have cross-party political support.

This allows us to ensure the importance of respite breaks is recognised, and to have a say in debates on policy changes affecting the people we support at Leuchie.

It was a pleasure therefore to welcome Scottish Labour Leader, Richard Leonard to Leuchie House for the first time last week, along with Shadow Cabinet Spokesperson for Health, Anas Sarwar and our ever-supportive constituency MSP, Iain Gray.

We’ve been fortunate to have had many politicians from all sides of the Scottish Parliament visit us over the years.  Nothing brings home more effectively just how vital respite care is than to see the transformative effect first-hand and to talk to the people involved.

The visit was also an opportunity to introduce the politicians to some of Leuchie’s nursing and care team.  This was particularly timely because we’ve just contributed to their NHS and Social Care Workforce Commission, which is developing Labour’s health and social care workforce strategy for Scotland.

At Leuchie our nursing and care staff are the lifeblood running through all aspects of the service we provide. I’ve spoken here before about the issues currently affecting the entire sector. The chronic shortage of nursing and care staff, reducing budgets, increasing demand and the impact of an ageing population have all combined to make attracting, remunerating and retaining a strong workforce harder than ever.

In our response to the Commission, we highlighted the need to take a more creative approach to attracting people from a wider demographic pool into the sector, including older adults and more men.  We also suggested ways we believe the barriers to attracting staff could be reduced. For example, by introducing a positive education programme around caring careers, by creating more supportive work environments, and by building stronger relationships between the third sector and Scotland’s universities and colleges.

Richard Leonard tweeted after his visit that Leuchie was ‘a tremendous national resource’. We couldn’t agree more. Now we need focused political commitment to ensure the care sector can thrive and overcome the challenges we’re facing.

Mairi O'Keefe, Chief Executive, Leuchie House. Published in The East Lothian Courier on 26 April 2018.