Scotland’s paid and unpaid carers have been undervalued and overlooked for far too long

By Lewis Ryder-Jones, Advocacy Advisor for Oxfam Scotland

With the weather turning colder, the cost-of-living crisis –one driven by rising energy bills –is at the forefront of many people’s minds right now. For many, deciding whether or not to turn on the heating comes with the stark choice about what else they must sacrifice to afford to do so.

Yet for people who provide care across Scotland, whether paid or unpaid, as well as those who experience care, such decisions about how to meet the basic costs of daily life are not new. Indeed, for many, the need to make sacrifices just to get by has long been their reality.

Lauded as heroes during the pandemic, the outpouring of thanks for those who care for others was a fleeting, and all too shallow, recognition of the vital role they play in our society. Ultimately, it has not yet resulted in the level of tangible support that people desperately need. For many carers –both paid and unpaid –and many who experience care, the pressures and impacts of the pandemic are not over, and they are now being exacerbated by a cost crisis that is wreaking more havoc on peoples’ finances, while further undermining their wellbeing.

Across social care, childcare, and care for older people, services and the carers who deliver them are stretched to their very limit, and often well beyond.

While a range of actions have been taken or planned in Scotland that may unlock progress, it is too slow and those who rely on or provide care are paying the price.

That’s why Oxfam Scotland, along with over 46 other organisations, are supporting ‘A Scotland that cares’, the campaign for a dedicated National Outcome on Care. Today, we’re asking you to join us.

The Scottish Government says its 11 National Outcomes “describe the kind of Scotland it wants to create”. They include important goals, like tackling poverty and ensuring the environment is protected. But, right now, care is all but missing.

Fortunately, we now have a chance to change this, with the Scottish Government about to review their National Outcomes for the first time in five years. We believe that adding a new, dedicated National Outcome on care is essential, and that introducing this will drive new policy and spending action, while ensuring we transparently measure the level of progress achieved.

From research carried out during the pandemic, we already knew that over half of unpaid carers are unable to manage their monthly expenses, but a new report by One Parent Families Scotland now shows that rising financial pressures are causing misery for single parents, with three in five unable to pay the bills.

Meanwhile, despite the huge importance of their work, those employed in the care sector, whether in social care or childcare, are also often in roles with low pay and poor working conditions. Yet at the same time, the cost of accessing these services is so high that people, often women, are locked out of paid work due to the necessity of caring responsibilities at home.

We must ensure Scotland works towards becoming a truly caring country. But we can’t do it alone. We need –carers need –your support for change. That’s why we’re asking you to use your voice by sending a letter to the First Minister, and the leader of every party represented in the Scottish Parliament. They need to hear why fully valuing and investing in care is so important, and why this matters to you. Our dedicated campaign website makes it easy to add your voice in just a few clicks.

Together, we can show that Scotland cares.

Add your voice by visiting 

This article was originally published in The Press and Journal