Stone calls for more support for Highland families after survey of carers
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CARERS in Caithness and elsewhere in the Highlands deserve better from the Scottish Government and need to have their voices heard "loud and clear", north MP Jamie Stone has said.
He has contacted Scotland's health secretary Jeane Freeman and asked her to give more support to Highland families in need.
Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, spoke out after a survey revealed how badly coronavirus has affected disabled children and young people, especially those with autism, who are "really struggling with the changes to their routines".
He pointed out that the survey – conducted by Inclusion Scotland – drew 119 responses from carers and disabled people in the Highlands, the highest of all 32 Scottish local authority areas. One in four responses came from a family carer of a disabled child or young person in the north.
Out of these respondents, three in four said the pandemic negatively affected their mental health and wellbeing, with two in three having difficulty accessing specialist dietary needs and medicines.
One in three said the availability of social care support was lacking, while a similar proportion reported a loss of routine and additional support for learning during the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr Stone said: "Behind these statistics are people we all know. What really stands out from the survey is just how badly the coronavirus has affected disabled children and young people, especially those with autism, who are really struggling with the changes to their routines."
He added: "We need our governments to focus on supporting the unsung heroes that care for their relatives, whether it's their parent, spouse or child.
"Sadly, years of underfunding and centralisation of health services has done nothing to help the families most hit by the pandemic. I have forwarded the information to the Scottish health minister and asked her to give more support to those Highland families in need.
"Carers in the Highlands deserve better from the Scottish Government. I sincerely hope that their voices are heard loud and clear."
John Beaton of Inclusion Scotland said: "Insufficient funding for services provided before Covid-19 restrictions combined with widening inequity in access to goods and services during lockdown has had an unprecedented impact on the families who most need our support.
"Seventy-five per cent of families who responded to our survey in Highland reported an adverse impact on their health and wellbeing.
"The socio-economic aftershock of the coronavirus will leave these disabled children and young people likely to face the biggest challenges of their generation in accessing goods and services vital to their educational attainment, social inclusion and wellbeing through no fault of their own."