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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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North-east care charities face staff crisis

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North-east care charities are facing a crisis when it comes to staff recruitment and retention

Vital services in the north east of Scotland are being hit by the care sector’s inability to recruit and retain staff.

The head of Aberdeen-based Cornerstone, one of the country’s largest care charities, says the future of services are being compromised by economic pressures facing the sector - a situation that had reached a “critical juncture”.

Edel Harris, Cornerstone chief executive, issued the stark warning in response to a survey commissioned by charity organisations in the north east which have a combined staff of over 3,000.

It found care groups, unable to attract or retain personnel in a number of areas including management and IT, were becoming more reliant on temporary agency staff instead of dedicated professionals which was impacting negatively on the quality and scope of services.

And an inability to attract full costs from local authorities meant organisations were often subsidising services from their own reserves, a situation that was unsustainable Harris said.

The sector is at a critical juncture where a collective effort is required from within the sector as well as from local and national government - Edel Harris

To illustrate the disparity, those care organisations surveyed paid an average salary of £12,384 when the average wage in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire was nearly £35,000.

It comes on the back of research published last week by the Care Inspectorate showing the quality of provision in third sector care homes outperformed both the private and public sectors.

Harris warned: “The sector is at a critical juncture where a collective effort is required from within the sector as well as from local and national government.

“The sector’s inability to attract and retain permanent staff is leading to an over-reliance on casual staff, with the consequent lack of continuity, challenges with quality and increased risk.

“Charities are saying agency staff are no longer a flexible resource but a core safety net to allow services to be delivered.”

However, the sector was responding by offering staff better conditions, the survey revealed, with two-thirds of organisations offering flexible working while one in four offered increased holiday allowances.

James Bream, research and policy director at Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said funding cuts meant organisations will face a point where they will find it difficult or impossible to deliver services with the funding they are given.

He added: “The third sector recognises that it finds it hard to compete on purely financial considerations so it is looking to more innovative methods to engage with staff.

“Fundamentally the sector is probably being most affected by factors driving up the cost of living in the region such as housing costs.

“There is a risk that without addressing some of the challenges in our region the care sector in particular will have to make some potentially untenable choices.”



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