Older People (Human Rights)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd September 2020.

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Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

6. To ask the Scottish Government what role ministers have played in ensuring that the human rights of older people are being protected during the Covid-19 pandemic. (S5O-04546)

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

Ministers have been active in ensuring a human rights-based approach to the development of our policy response, the legislative approach and the range of guidance in relation to this unprecedented threat to public health.

I have held round-table meetings with the older people’s strategic action forum to ensure that our response has been directly informed by lived experience, while ensuring that the standards and the principles of human rights are integrated into all our policymaking.

Our immediate priorities fund has ensured that members of our older people’s strategic action forum have received more than £1.1 million additional funding to provide direct support for older people during the pandemic.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

The sad reality for older people living in care homes is that their human rights seem to have been an afterthought. Almost half of Covid deaths have happened in care homes.

We knew that those who lived in care homes were the most vulnerable to the virus, yet 47 Covid-positive patients were transferred into care homes. We were slow to set up testing, and we still have gaps in testing. Instead, we have sometimes demonised healthcare workers.

What role will the minister now play to make sure that we can, as best as possible, put a protective shield around our care homes and protect as many older people’s lives as we can?

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

Of course, the Scottish Government has always placed the upholding of human rights at the heart of its approach. Since the start of the pandemic, our priority has been to save people’s lives, wherever they live.

A framework of legislation protects the rights of individuals receiving care, and throughout the pandemic we have worked closely with our colleagues in the national health service and local government, and with a variety of voluntary and independent sectors, to ensure that the needs and rights of residents in care homes are able to be met.

The Covid-19 framework for decision making and Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis provide an indication of the order in which we will carefully and gradually seek to change those restrictions. The route map includes overarching commitments to human rights, equality and social justice and sets out ways in which those principles have been applied in the decision-making process.

All our decisions on the Covid-19 response have been guided by the scientific advice that was available at the time. We continue to tailor our response as more is learned. I will also continue to work with all our stakeholders, through our older people’s strategic action forum, to ensure that their lived experience informs our decision making in future.

The Presiding Officer:

We have a supplementary question from Maurice Corry.

Photo of Maurice Corry Maurice Corry Conservative

To ask the Scottish Government how it is protecting our older armed forces veterans during the current pandemic, in line with their human rights, bearing in mind that some such veterans have to cope with complex health issues.

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

A huge part of our work alongside local communities and organisations aims to support older people and to ensure that a tailored approach is taken to all intersections in such groups, whether they involve older veterans, older minority ethnic people or older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

The Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans is very much involved in that work, and I would be happy to pass on Maurice Corry’s comments to him so that he can feed back to him. However, I reassure Mr Corry that we have absolutely factored in all the types of older people who might need such support or for whom tailored support might be appropriate. I also point out that our older people’s strategic action forum includes a number of organisations, such as Poppyscotland, which have informed our process. I will take up Mr Corry’s specific points to ensure that he receives a fuller answer from my colleague Graeme Dey, who is the minister concerned.