Older People (Support while Shielding)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 14th January 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that older people who are shielding receive appropriate support. (S5O-04899)

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

We have made a £15 million flexible fund available to local authorities that are at protection level 4 to strengthen the local response to supporting the needs of people who do not have support networks, including those on the shielding list, older people and disabled people. Anyone who needs advice or support can call the national assistance helpline—I cannot overstate how important that is. I hope that everybody puts that information on their social media and advertises that helpline in any other way that they can. The helpline connects to local authorities, which can provide practical and emotional support, including access to food and other essential items.

In December, we sent everyone on the shielding list a booklet providing advice and information on the support that is available. That is especially important for people with less digital access to information and helpline numbers. It also targets the group that James Kelly just spoke about, who may not be digitally connected. I know from the feedback that I have had from the older people’s strategic action forum that getting the booklet through the door was a real benefit for those people.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

We know the toll that the virus has taken. It has taken a substantial toll on the older population in Scotland and the mental and physical health impacts have been well documented. Christina McKelvie confirmed that the Scottish National Party’s connecting Scotland programme targets just

5,000 older and disabled people. Considering that the Scottish Government’s own household survey in 2019 showed that there were about 123,000 over-65s living with no home internet, will the Scottish Government commit now to increasing the number of older and disabled people supported by that programme, and can the minister confirm today whether work on the Government’s connected Scotland strategy, which was paused in the spring, has now restarted?

The Presiding Officer:

Please keep your answer as brief as possible, minister.

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

There were a couple of questions there. It is not just 5,000 people who are supported by the connecting Scotland programme; it is 5,000 older people, but the programme involves 9,000 individuals who are at high clinical risk from Covid-19, including older people. The programme is expanding and developing all the time, and it involves a lot more than 5,000 people. I am happy to give Rachael Hamilton an update on it.

Rachael Hamilton also asked about the connected Scotland strategy. We paused the work on the details of the strategy, but we did not pause the work of delivering on it. The national implementation group involves key partners in all the actions that we are taking to ensure that anybody who is socially isolated and lonely gets the support that they need. That is why the funding is being delivered through those key partners.

The Presiding Officer:

We have a brief supplementary question from Bill Kidd.

Photo of Bill Kidd Bill Kidd Scottish National Party

I have listened to what has been said, but can the minister confirm that an older person who is on the shielding list can sign up for priority access to online supermarket delivery slots, as was the case in the first lockdown?

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

Yes. We have offered everyone on the shielding list access to priority online supermarket delivery slots, and that offer remains open so, again, it would be good if members could share that. In December, we sent everyone on the shielding list the booklet that I spoke about entitled “Balancing the risks of daily activities during coronavirus”, which has additional advice on how to sign up for priority online supermarket delivery slots. The chief medical officer’s letter of 5 January also reminded everyone about signing up for that. Those communications provided advice on contacting the national helpline for anyone who needs to sign up. Again, I appeal to members to get that message out to their constituents.