Blog | SAMH calls for change in adult social care

4th December 2020

SAMH is committed to protecting the rights of people experiencing mental health problems and provides direct support to people experiencing mental ill-health. In our latest blog, our Director of Delivery and Development Graeme Henderson, explains how SAMH is putting the voices of people with experience at the heart of our efforts to encourage positive change through our response to the Independent Review of Adult Social Care.

When it comes to supporting Scotland’s mental health, it has never been more important for real change to happen in adult social care.

Many people with mental health problems receive vital support through third sector and independent social care providers, rather than the NHS or local authority. Someone who receives support from SAMH told us: “it’s the best thing I ever did coming here. It’s helped me a hell of a lot. Its helping me move forward.”

However, these services were already under pressure before the outbreak of coronavirus, which has significantly increased since March, a trend that is likely to continue as the financial impact of recent events begins to take effect. At SAMH, we fear it is the people who receive support from social care providers who are feeling the impact of these challenges the most, due to the profound effect it has on how support is delivered.

We know that when adult social care works well and puts people first, those experiencing mental health problems ultimately benefit. Earlier this year, SAMH conducted some small scale research to find out about people’s experiences of social care in Scotland. While we found that social care support is generally viewed positively, our research also highlighted that there are problems within the system that negatively affect people’s experience of social care support.

Challenges experienced by participants in our research included difficult application processes, a lack of choice over the type of support received and difficulties in progressing towards independent living. One person told us that “the process of referral, assessment and being assigned a place was very drawn out, with little input from me.”

Despite the problems with access and delivery, we found that people who had experience of both inpatient hospital care and social care in the community felt they had more agency and independence when being supported in the community. Things that people appreciated about community support included having their own accommodation to decorate, making friends and engaging in hobbies. One person told SAMH that being supported in the community made them feel like ‘an adult again’, while someone else said that community support services ‘take you as you are, it’s more relaxed.’

However, the lack of investment in community based social care means there are currently people stuck in hospital, waiting for a space within support services to become available. This is particularly true for people with mental health problems, who benefit from specialist mental health support that is not always readily available.

Clearly social care in the community is valued, but there are issues that can only be resolved by reforming the social care system – tinkering around the edges will not be enough.

That is why SAMH is calling for:

Substantial investment in social care to increase services, so people have choice in the type of support they receive

  • People to be able to self-refer to support without having to self-fund
  • Social care support for people with mental health problems to be provided by workforces with training and expertise in mental health
  • An end to short-term contracts, so organisations can focus on delivering and embedding person-centred support
  • An end to charging people for their social care support

SAMH has submitted a response to the Independent Review of Adult Social Care, which you can read here. We look forward to reading the Review’s recommendations in the New Year and hope they bring about the positive change that people who receive social care support need in these difficult times.

You might be feeling lower, more stress or anxious at the moment. Even during these unprecedented times, there are things we can all to do protect our mental health. SAMH has developed a coronavirus mental health information hub where you can find information, tips and resources which you may find useful.