Social care workforce ‘undervalued’ despite living wage agenda, MSPs hear

Written by Tom Freeman on 13 September 2016 in News

Scotland 'does not value' people who work in social care, MSPs of the Health and Sport committee are told

Scotland does not place enough value on those who provide social care to vulnerable people, leading voices in the sector have told MSPs.

The plea comes a month before care providers are obliged to pay the Scottish living wage to their staff, a commitment many organisations are “struggling” to meet.

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee had met workers from the front line of social care services before hearing from senior figures in the sector and trade unions.


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Workers had been “forthright” and “frank” about the challenges facing them, committee members said, which included long hours and poor conditions.

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of providers’ coalition Scottish Care, said: “Scotland as a whole does not value those who work in the care of older people, and in the care of many other individuals.”

UNISON’s head of policy Dave Watson said it chimed with the trade union’s recent survey of members in the sector, which found pressure to squeeze in more and more home visits left less time to properly care for people.

“Fundamentally there just isn’t enough staff,” he said.

Scotland is thought to need 60,000 new social care workers to meet the demands of an ageing population, but the sector currently faces a recruitment crisis, the committee heard.

“If we want to create social care as a pathway, as a career of choice, then simply paying and allocating monies to pay the Scottish Living Wage to those at entry level doesn’t enable that career to be established,” warned Macaskill, pointing out in the short term the commitment will be met by “eating into” training budgets and other assets.

Annie Gunner Logan, director of the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland, said voluntary sector providers were “struggling to arrive at appropriate funding agreements” with only a month to go before the Living Wage commitment comes into effect.

Despite campaigning on the issue, she said, providers found out about the timescale from government “in the press”.

“We advocated a national approach, and that wasn’t taken forward. We advocated an approach which was less about the amount of money that went into staff pockets but about how much we pay for public services,” she said.

Commissioning from the new integrated health and social care partnerships meant inconsistencies across the country, she added.

“Market mechanisms and a buyer/supplier relationship for care will not solve the workforce issues. Partnership, with all partners around the table is our best hope.”

Self-directed support, where people have more control and choice in their care providers is not currently being taken up by older people but could be “potentially revolutionary” said Macaskill.

However, Anna Fowlie, chief executive of the Scottish Social Services Council, said the required personal assistants were in a vulnerable position, and weren’t subject to the living wage agreement.

“Anyone working in adult day care, or working with children, they are not part of this commitment. Personal assistants I feel will probably be last in the queue. They’re not organised, they’re individuals, they’re not unionised, and therefore they’re very vulnerable,” she said.

“The living wage can’t be our highest aspiration. It’s got to be a starting point. It’s more than money, we have to value the people these people work with,” Fowlie concluded.

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