Donald Macaskill Talks About Tech & Preserving Social CareCaroline Laurenson
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
In this blog instalment we interview Donald Macaskill to find out more about his work as the CEO at Scottish Care and his views on technology use in the social care sector.
It provides insight into:
- Donald’s background in health and social care and the things he’s passionate about.
- How technology interfaces with care and some of the current issues and barriers.
- His focus areas for the year ahead supporting the social care sector.
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We live in an ageing society. But what does that really mean?
In the next 20 years the balance of young and old will shift to the point where there will be one elderly person for every two people of working age. The challenge this presents is two-fold, a reduction in family members able to provide support and a smaller pool of professional carers.
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How did you get into working in social care?
I have a background in psychology and working in learning disability and palliative end of life care. My work has always centred around people and in particular supporting those who may be excluded, people on the edges and the margins.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding thing is being able to work at a very individual person-centred level.
What does healthy ageing mean to you?
It has to be about wellbeing, it needs to be a holistic approach. In the context of technology, it’s not about function alone, it’s about what that enables me to do and who I am as an individual.
There is a general perception that elderly people are technology averse, what’s your experience?
I don’t believe this is true, people want ease of access, clear purpose and particular personal benefit. If they don’t see that they will be disinterested.
At the moment we’re not giving enough attention to the particular needs of people as they age in the consumer technology that we’re developing.
There has been a huge growth in consumer electronics that support wellbeing and internet connected devices that help in the home. Do you see a place for these sorts of technologies in supporting assisted living and delivery of care?
At Scottish Care we see technology as an enabler of relationship rather than a replacer of relationship. When I think about technology it has to be something that is adding value to who I am as a person and what I want to do and who I want to be. When I think of those who require support because of disability or age or any other characteristic, I’m looking for technology that enables independence. I’m not look for fancy gizmos and unfortunately this focus on devices and products, makes many lose touch with the importance of the relational dimension.
Access to digital products and services is fast becoming essential to the way we live. How do we make sure that parts of our society are not left behind?
Since the pandemic there has been a great emphasis on getting devices for people. But there are two basic issues that we’re not addressing as a society. One is connectivity, in that we assume there is adequate internet coverage. The other is accessibility, we need to be more cognisant of issues like visual impairments, hearing and dexterity. Many devices can also be heavy to hold.
Another related issue is how we approach data security, privacy, autonomy, individual control. We all know about Greta Thunberg and the work that she does to raise awareness about climate change. I don’t think it’ll be long before someone like Greta fundamentally calls into question how third parties handle our data. The younger generation are much more informed about the value of their data.
Do you have a favourite book, author, blogger or podcast?
I am a dipper especially these busy days and so for me any collection of poetry daily inspires me. But I also find searching and discovering short pieces on Twitter a fantastic resource,
What do you like to do outside of work?
I relax with a good piece of music and in the absence of live music that’s through my headphones. I’m also lucky to live 2 minutes from a beach so need I say more about the freedom and peace that brings.
What are your top tips for maintaining wellbeing?
Tech can never replace touch. So, I think it’s important to find time to relax and switch off; distract yourself with what fulfils you and work at remaining connected – through talk and presence if possible.
Do you have any resolutions for 2021?
I have an inherent personal suspicion of making resolutions as I think psychologically to do so in the depth of winter while we should all be hibernating can be quite damaging. But putting that philosophical concern to one side, my priority for this year, both personally and professionally, in three word is to Preserve Social Care. I have concerns about the political aspects, the risk that care becomes medicalised and we then lose sight of the distinctiveness of social care which is about enabling people to fulfil their wellbeing not just to be clinically safe. I want to get to the end of this year with social care being recognised as something which is of equal worth as healthcare. And that means investment, prioritising it and appreciating it for what it is and what it contributes.
Talking to Donald, it is clear he is very passionate about empowering people to live independent and fulfilled lives, where they are treated with dignity and their needs respected.
Some key takeaways from our discussion include:
- Relationships – Social care is about relationships and putting the person at the centre of everything.
- Technology – Technology is only part of the solution and needs to be designed to accommodate our changing needs as we age.
- Preserving Social Care – 2021 could be a significant turning point for social care.
If you want to keep up-to-date with Donald’s thoughts and activities, he writes a regular blog over on the Scottish Care website, which you can access here. I really like following them, as Donald has a real talent for writing and always manages to encapsulate how he is feeling with his words and shares his favourite poetry.
Scottish Care have a lovely project that they are co-ordinating called the Social Care Garden. This will include a Social Care Mosaic for the Care Futures Garden. The concept came out of the Collective Care Futures programme as a way to imagine and create a shared vision for the future of social care in Scotland. You can contribute to the Social Care Mosaic here: https://scottishcare.org/social-care-mosaic/ If you liked this post, check out our website for more technical advice and our Alexa tutorials on our Youtube channel. You can also subscribe to our mailing list to be notified when we have new posts and support material available.