Britain hadn’t even JOINED the EU, the Beatles were top of the charts and Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister when Stranraer’s Jim McColm began what would become a lifetime of caring for others.
Jim, who has served as a carer at home for 54 years to a severely disabled daughter and since 2003 to a increasingly frail wife, somehow also found time to represent the region’s near-15,000 unpaid carers on a joint NHS/council body.
He is now to step down from that post on the Integration Joint Board and, typically, is concerned about finding someone to step into his shoes once he’s gone.
“It’s been a fantastic honour to represent the 14,955 unpaid carers we have living in the region, and I’ve gained a lot of confidence speaking up and out on their behalf,” he said.
“It’s incredibly important that carers are represented on a board which directs the vast majority of health and social care work in Dumfries and Galloway, and so I’m really keen that someone passionate and outspoken can fill this post.”
Jim, who lives in Stranraer, is a dual carer – sometimes referred to as a ‘sandwich carer’ - looking after two family members.
If anyone had ‘inside knowledge’ before taking up his health and social care role, it was Jim McColm. He was a worthy champion for the many like him who, often unsung and unrewarded, carry on a vital task at home, taking pressure off the NHS and social work departments.
He continued: “Being an unpaid carer can be incredibly challenging, especially when people are juggling busy lives with all their other responsibilities.
“However, it’s likely that our society wouldn’t function without these unpaid carers, and over the years I’ve realised the importance of them having a voice in the decision-making processes.”
Jim has held a variety of roles, including chair of the UCI, carer representative on the Clinical Care Governance Committee and Strategic Planning group, and a member of the Coalition of Carers Scotland group.
He also attends the Carers Parliament in Edinburgh as carer representative.
In 2014, the Scottish Government introduced legislation to integrate health and social care in Scotland – including the formation of Integration Joint Boards.
The IJB sets the direction for health and social care within the region, and brings together representatives of the NHS, Dumfries and Galloway Council, the independent sector and the third or voluntary sector.
Anyone interested in succeeding Jim on the Dumfries and Galloway IJB should contact strategic planning manager Linda Owen in the first instance by emailing Carers@dumgal.gov.uk