Put people, health and social care at the centre of climate change action.
Create a £25m climate emergency innovation fund for third and independent sector social care organisations.
Understanding and planning for climate related risks must be applied as much to Scotland’s social care sector as to healthcare. For example, it is not clear whether the existing or planned NHS Scotland sustainability commitments[i] extend to social care. Given the mixed economy of social care provision in Scotland, the impact of climate change will need to be acted upon by a range of different bodies, including local and Integration Authorities and care providers – all sorely stretched by the demands of COVID-19.
Planning for the impacts of climate change will be necessary in the delivery of care itself (Care at Home) as well as in understanding the extent of the risk for social care facilities and the sector’s dependencies on different areas of infrastructure, particularly transport and telecommunications. It will also need to be resourced – third and independent sector providers cannot develop sustainable solutions without financial support from the public bodies that commission their expertise and services.
The challenges of COVID-19 have been many and varied; however, other countries are proposing increased commitments to green cities and climate change in the light of significant reduction in pollution during periods of lockdown. The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery has recommended the “prioritisation and delivery of green investments”,[ii] and the Scottish Government has committed to a range of activity in response.[iii] It is essential that this extends to social care.
The incoming Scottish Government should create a £25m fund for third and independent sector social care organisations to take innovative climate change action during the next Scottish Parliament five-year term.
Invest in clinically safe, environmentally friendly PPE and alternatives to single-use plastics used by disabled people and people living with long term conditions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an enormous increase in consumption of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), including facemasks and aprons. At present, a significant proportion of PPE used in health and social care settings is single use and disposable – to ensure clinical standards of hygiene are adhered to and reduce infection risk – but most is neither recyclable nor biodegradable, which poses a serious threat to the environment.[iv] However, we know that more sustainable options – including plastic-free and reusable stock – are available.[v]
Further investment is urgently needed into clinically safe, environmentally friendly PPE and alternatives to single-use plastics used by disabled people and people with long term conditions. In seeking alternatives to single-use plastics, care must be taken to consider the potential impacts on disabled people and people living with long term conditions.[vi] These impacts must be identified before any potential change, and appropriate alternatives carefully evaluated and funded.
Guarantee sustainable investment in accessible travel for people who access and deliver health and care services is included in action to reduce the impact of transport on climate change.
Action on climate change is one of the most pressing priorities facing our society. Although cars are a vital means of maintaining personal independence for many disabled people, and for care workers commuting to appointments, they are often the default due to lack of suitable public or active travel options. There are also many people for whom driving is not an option at all.
Reducing reliance on cars by people accessing and delivering care is one way to help tackle climate change. A programme of substantial investment in public transport, introducing new routes and more frequent services would support this goal. It is also important that this includes physical infrastructure to improve accessibility and training public transport staff to support people with a variety of access needs.
This investment should not simply be limited to major cities and urban areas – rural areas must also be prioritised. Limited access to transport is one of the reasons why people receiving care services who live in rural areas often are particularly badly affected by isolation. Connecting all of Scotland’s communities and people this way would bring both economic and social benefits.
Download the ALLIANCE 2021 Scottish Election manifesto at the link below.
[vi] ALLIANCE response: Consultation on Single-Use Plastics, December 2020