Candidacy is subject to multiple levels of influence at the societal and macro levels, depending on the political, economic and environmental context at the time of presentation.
The high proportions of people from ethnic minority backgrounds who live in the south of Glasgow has led to a range of ethno¬specific services being located there which are not available in other parts of the city. This is particularly true of the drop¬in centres and day centres.
This means the experiences of the people we spoke to in this study may be unrepresentative of the experiences of others in Glasgow and certainly in the wider context of Scotland, where the proportions of people from ethnic minorities compared to those not from minority backgrounds is much lower. In this sense, the experiences discussed in this study can be considered a best case scenario.
This is not to say that services in the south of Glasgow are in any way protected from the vagaries of the macro¬economic situation in the UK in 2013. Many staff and older people spoke of reductions in services and the loss of some ethno¬specific easily accessible services in the area. Older people were worried about having enough money to live on and many complained about recent assessments that resulted in their being required to make financial contributions for services.
Finance was a barrier to accessing services for some who had to pay for the services, or who had been assessed as being required to make a contribution, and would rather do without than pay. A lot of people said they felt services were too expensive. Chiropody and massage were two things people said they want but could not afford – Advocacy Connections Report
The Scottish Government is explicit in its commitment to equality of access to services and this is a principle that drives policy across the full spectrum of state responsibilities. The Scottish Government states that Scottish public authorities must have ‘due regard’ to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. This is a duty it has placed on local authorities and it has regulated in this area to ensure the duty is properly monitored.
It says this will “enable the better performance of the public sector equality duty”. This commitment is mirrored in Glasgow, where the local authority has embedded equal access training for its staff, funds ethno-specific services and commissions research aimed at improving its effectiveness in reaching people from ethnic minority backgrounds, to name just three of the wide range of measures undertaken.
Despite the apparent political will to improve the situation, this study found little evidence of any improvement in access or awareness of services in this population. The opposite appears to be the case. Wider macro-economic issues dominate service provision in this area. The position is accurately summarised below.
An increasing focus on ﬁscal, and consequently welfare, efﬁciency has resulted in structural and organisational reform of public institutions, which, coupled with reconﬁgurations of management and professional practices, have impacted on service provision (Rummery and Glendinning 1999; Ellis et al 1999; Lessa 2006; Baines 2006). Public sector professionals are thus enactors of policy and mediators of access, activities which are shaped by resource allocation and by tensions between institutional pressures from above, and service-users’ expectations at ground level. (Mackenzie et al, 2012 (25))
Social care in Scotland is currently undergoing a paradigm shift. Historically, people who are assessed as requiring support have this provided by a third party – a support provider – who contracts with the local authority to provide that support. This is changing so that the funding for the support is, where possible, controlled more directly by the person who needs the support. The outcome is that people get the support they want and need, rather than have this dictated by the support provider, who may not always get this right and in any case has other priorities to consider.
This presents an opportunity for older people from ethnic minority backgrounds with support needs. In this study, language barriers were a significant problem for some older people – especially women. One of the findings of this study provides an example of how personalisation might prove a useful development for this group. The study found that there was low sensitivity to the needs of people with language difficulties among the providers of home help services in the area.
Specifically, the absence of Urdu or Punjabi speaking home help staff meant older south Asian people were unable to communicate with their home help staff when they came to their homes. In some cases, this increased the isolation of the older person, even though their basic practical needs were met. Personalisation presents an opportunity to ensure that such services are tailored to the needs of these individuals. They are able to ensure that the home help they use is someone they can communicate with.
One person currently has a home support worker they cannot communicate easily with as they do not speak the same language. People would like to be able to get workers who can speak their language and understand their culture. People find they have to explain a lot of things and that it is hard to do so when there is a language barrier – Advocacy Connections Report
Social services in Glasgow – who are responsible for the administration of support budgets and are currently implementing personalisation policy – are working their way through the various groups of people who require support from them to ensure they all know about personalisation and how it works.
They plan to focus on older people in 2014 and are aware of the challenge they face in informing older people from ethnic minorities of this change in a way that encourages a take up of the service in a far more comprehensive way than these older people have exhibited in the past.
Part of this challenge will be to ensure older people and their families see this development as an opportunity and not a threat. We have seen in the case of the day centres which have a referral process controlled by social services that the perception of a service as directly meeting a need – in the day centres’ case, the need for social contact to combat isolation and loneliness – counteracts suspicion and cultural antipathy about the role of social services to the point where demand for the service exceeds supply. If personalisation can be seen in this light it will be one wider development that will positively change the operating conditions in which access to support services is currently framed.
(25) Is “Candidacy” a Useful Concept for Understanding Journeys through Public Services?, M Mackenzie et al, In Social Policy & Administration 2012