Karen Hedge, National Director at Scottish Care, shares her reflections on social care and climate change.
For too long social care has been missing from the climate change debate. Currently, there is no disaggregation of health and care data on CO2 emissions which means that we can neither identify nor benchmark the extent to which there is impact. However, given the essential role that social care plays in infection prevention control, it can be assumed that there is a resulting and significant contribution in the form of single-use plastics, PPE and chemical use. In addition, a key purpose of social care is in supporting people to have choice and control in their lives. This requires a sector who is skilled to provide support to individuals who choose to prioritise a sustainable lifestyle.
Fundamentally, we must also address issues of social justice; many of those who access care and support, as well as those who work in social care, experience poverty. This raises questions such as ‘if you are reliant on a food bank to feed your family, how can you have choice over what you eat’? Living moment to moment does not create the safe conditions that people need to be able to take action which has a view to longer-term impact.
In Scotland, social care is mostly funded by the public purse and whilst the Scottish Government has set key objectives for netzero, there has not yet been any recognition of the additional resource required for the sector to address climate change head on. Many of these interventions, such as those in reducing energy waste, benefit from an ‘invest to save’ model such as the £25 million fund for innovative work in sustainable social care as outlined in the provocation paper by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE). Scottish Care welcomes the recommendations made in this paper as a key step in outlining the need to incorporate the sector in wider discussion, strategy and investment.
To find out more on how social care can impact climate change, here is a link to my blog on the subject, including a call to those who have made changes or would like to make changes, so that we can collate examples of good practice for sharing and implementation – https://scottishcare.org/climate-change-blog-from-our-national-director/ (this link will take you away from out website).