That is a matter for Dumfries and Galloway Council. However, working with Dumfries and Galloway integration joint board and NHS Dumfries and Galloway, the council is committed to developing a recovery plan that systematically reduces the deficit without reducing capacity by redesigning services and delivery and investing in quality, sustainable care.
It is not unusual for integration joint boards to begin the year with a variance against budget and for that to reduce throughout the year as savings plans are developed and expenditure patterns become clearer.
Over the past 20 years, Dumfries and Galloway’s population of people aged 75 and over has risen by 43 per cent. Over the next decade, that population is projected to rise by a further 28 per cent. With demands for services increasing and major problems with the recruitment of the required staff for the region, how will the Scottish Government support Dumfries and Galloway’s health and social care partnership in laying out its plans to continue to provide and protect vital services and to make them on a par with those of the rest of Scotland?
That is a really interesting question, which, as Minister for Older People and Equalities, I take a huge interest in. We have an ageing population that will demand more services as we move through the next few years.
On the specifics of Dumfries and Galloway and the progress that has been made in the integration of its health and social care services, all health and social care partnerships completed a self-assessment on their current position on 15 May 2019, and those assessments will go some way towards helping us understand what the pressures are.
Ensuring that individuals at home and in homely settings get quality, sustainable care requires a whole-systems approach, and we are working really hard to ensure that that happens. The self-assessment approach that is being taken by joint integration boards will provide us with information that we will plug into the work that we are doing on the older people strategy and other strategies that work alongside it so that, in the future, we can ensure that we provide the best care for all our older people and the best support to their representative organisations.
In Finlay Carson’s constituency and around Scotland, tens of thousands of Scots who are over 75 will be left worse off as a result of the United Kingdom Government scrapping the free television licence. Does the minister agree that, after years of Tory austerity, the last thing that our older people need is more money being taken out of their pockets by the Tories?
Annabelle Ewing will not be surprised that I totally and utterly agree with her. When I attended the Scottish Pensioners Forum conference just two weeks ago, that was a hot topic on the agenda.
The UK Government has shirked its responsibility to support older people and pushed it on to the BBC, which is an absolute abdication of its responsibility in regard to a welfare policy. The plan to link the TV licence to pension credit will fail to help many vulnerable people, because many do not claim it. The policy is an attack on our older and most vulnerable people, many of whom are already socially isolated. Perhaps the two prime ministerial candidates should make the commitment to reverse the disgraceful decision that was taken on TV licences for over-75s.