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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Unfair working environment for social care staff

This news post is almost 4 years old

An independent review of working conditions in social care has highlighted a poor working environment for many social care staff

Many staff working in social care in Scotland are not being treated fairly with many on temporary contracts, doing unpaid overtime and working over 50 hours a week.

A call for the creation of a new body to ensure social care staff enjoy fair pay and conditions is the key recommendation of an independent review of Fair Work in Scotland’s Social Care Sector.

The Fair Work Conventionreport, published today, highlights that 40,000 people working in social care in Scotland are not on permanent contracts, 30,000 work unpaid overtime and over 20,000 are on zero hours contracts.

The average salary for social care staff is just £9.79 an hour, which works out as £17,817 based on a 35 hour week. However, half of Scotland’s 202,000 social care staff are working part-time.

The inquiry found that the social care sector is not consistently delivering fair work because existing funding and commissioning systems are making it difficult for some providers to offer fair work.

It also highlighted that there is no mechanism for workers to have an effective voice in influencing work and employment in the sector.

Scotland’s third sector, which employs 28% of Scotland’s social care workforce, welcomed the report but said the key issue should be changing the way social care is commissioned.

Annie Gunner Logan of the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) said local authority commissioning processes are driving social care providers to compete on cost rather than quality of service.

She said the third sector highly values its workforce but councils need to pay more.

“CCPS and its members were delighted to have played a part in this initiative, which was fully inclusive throughout of the views, concerns and experiences of third sector care providers,” said Gunner Logan.

“These organisations are wholly committed to fair work principles, but find them very challenging to implement within the context of a funding and commissioning environment that continues to be driven by an imperative to reduce unit costs almost regardless of the consequences for our highly-valued workforce.

“Today’s report calls for a radical overhaul of commissioning practices, and we couldn’t agree more. The report’s analysis is absolutely correct in that regard, and CCPS looks forward to working with partners to take its recommendations forward.”

The review was led by Fair Work Convention members Henry Simmons, chief executive of Alzheimer Scotland, and Lilian Macer, Scottish convenor of Unison. It involved research and extensive engagement with social care bodies and staff over 18 months.

Speaking on the publication of their recommendations, co-chair of the Fair Work Convention Professor Patricia Findlay of Strathclyde University said: “Enhancing fair work for social care workers is crucial to ensuring that some of our most vulnerable citizens receive a high quality of care. It is concerning to see that this is not currently being realised, mainly due to issues caused by existing funding and commissioning systems, and the lack of effective voice for workers.”

“The findings highlight the urgent need for policy makers, commissioners and leaders in the social care sector to work together to set minimum fair work standards for the social care workforce; and provide the opportunity for ongoing dialogue and agreement on workforce matters.”

Given the predominance of women workers in the sector (83%), the report also highlights that failure to address these issues contributes to women’s poorer quality of work and Scotland’s gender pay gap.

The convention is recommending that the Scottish Government intervenes to establish and support a new sector-level body to ensure effective voice for workers in the social care sector.

As an immediate priority, this body should establish a minimum Fair Work Contract for social care, which should thereafter underpin commissioning of social care services.

Looking forward, this body could develop a bargaining role in the sector, providing a locus for designing and developing services, training and development and other workforce strategies.



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