Along with our partners, we recognise the efforts being made to keep public services and critical national infrastructure going through one of the most difficult periods we have faced in the pandemic. We know that people are being asked to be flexible to cover for absent colleagues and are very grateful to everyone who is helping us through this difficult period.
The absence rate from public and private services is growing and some services are having to adjust the way they work and prioritise the most important aspects of delivery.
At this time, our first priority must be those services which protect life preserving services – our NHS, emergency services and those that protect people from harm on a daily basis. An important component of our essential services is social care, which is facing significant pressures. Effective social care support is essential if we are to make sure that people receive the care they need, that dignity and human rights are upheld and to avoid further pressure falling on the NHS.
Scottish ministers, COSLA and local partners have been working to maximise social care support in recent weeks. However, in many local partnerships the pressure is very significant and we need to ensure that our efforts to assist people who need social care support are maximised.
Scottish ministers and COSLA are asking all public, private and voluntary sector services to make social care support a national priority, to support some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Everyone can contribute - either by releasing staff who can help in this effort or by supporting carers leave for family and friends who might need it.
This is a collective endeavour, locally and nationally, and it will take our collective efforts to ensure that our most vulnerable people get the support they need at this very difficult time.
We remain committed to maintaining in-person learning in schools and early learning because closing schools is harmful to children and would have a negative effect on the wider economy and public services.
In order to protect life and limb services, keep schools open and protect the vulnerable, local authorities and local partners are going to have to prioritise what they deliver in the weeks ahead. That may mean some services being closed for a period or operating on reduced hours or service levels. This will free up resources to make sure we can deliver essential services protecting our most vulnerable friends and family.
This will only be done where it is absolutely necessary and the recent changes to self-isolation rules should help us keep disruption to a minimum. Where changes are required, those decisions will be made by frontline partners, taking account of available resources and pressures, and guided by our 4 harms framework. There are many services that contribute to wellbeing and quality of life in a wider sense and we will not lose sight of their value. As soon as demands and resources allow, we should aim to bring any affected services back to normal operation.
National and local partners continue to deliver national priorities and programmes. They are playing a critical role in the testing and vaccination programmes, in delivering business grants, self-isolation grants and support, and much more. We have worked together throughout the pandemic in supporting vulnerable people and key workers. That partnership between local and national government is, and will remain, essential.
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