Please find below the comments on the policy proposals in relation to island / rural communities. This response is submitted on behalf of Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS).
- MACS welcomes the proposals for the Scottish Carer’s Allowance and is very supportive of the additional measures proposed over and above the carer’s allowance which is currently in place. We feel it recognises both the importance of a fair remuneration for the role of carer and the revised timescales when payment will be made.
- MACS are pleased to see the extra support which will be made available to clients over and above the payment of an allowance. This recognises the vulnerability and additional needs that a client who needs care has.
- Both of the above proposals will have a significant benefit to island dwellers, who frequently face more challenging circumstances than mainlanders. Eg Someone who needs a carer only has the island residents to call upon. As this is a smaller pool of people within a fixed boundary competition for employment is frequently higher than on the mainland. This results in a shortage of labour and higher wages, so the additional funding will have a positive impact.
- Likewise, if an islander needs to seek medical treatment on the mainland they have the additional expense of ferry costs for themselves and a carer to get to an appointment, so again the extra funding will be useful.
- On the negative side, it may be difficult to find appropriate people on an island to provide the extra support which is proposed, especially if a ferry journey is required. Eg. I am aware of cases where the assessor for a PIP application had 4 proposed journeys cancelled due to disruption on the ferries. This delayed the application by several months.
- The differences between islands/island groups and rural areas is a geographical difference. It takes longer and is more complex to travel to medical treatment etc from an island which only has one ferry a day, and even this ferry may be cancelled. Eg. Patients from these areas who need radiotherapy at the Beatson in Glasgow have to stay in a hotel during their treatment. If this patient needs the support of a carer this is a complicated arrangement.
- We believe Social Security Scotland is reasonably accessible for islanders providing information is given to agencies on an island. With the improved connectivity and increase in use of virtual meetings the services are more accessible. However, these means of communication are not accessible by some groups in society so alternatives need to be in place.
Hilary Stubbs, MACS vice convener.