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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Independent living “only if you don’t require a sleepover”

This opinion piece is over 4 years old

Pete Richmond says the move to pay the living wage to care workers on sleepover could threaten the right of people to live in their own homes

We should celebrate the Scottish Governments commitment to the Scottish Living Wage but without due consideration there is a real danger we could see the erosion of the quality of life for disabled people and reduction in fulfilling jobs in the social care sector.

Support workers have long been underpaid in the UK, the monetary value of their wage by no means matching the important role they undertake in helping people live their lives. Pay increases are warranted and welcomed.

However, while some senior figures in the third sector have written on the impact to their organisation, the impact to the people these organisations support seem largely underplayed. Language such as "redesigning’"can be indicative of a cutting of provision – disabled people forced into group home conditions as living independently is deemed economically unviable especially if a sleepover is required. Assistive technology has a role to play but for some particularly those with more complex disabilities technological solutions are limited, alternatives to a sleepover are difficult to envisage. Do we want to have independent living ‘only if you don’t require a sleepover ’approach.

Pete Richmond
Pete Richmond

An individual’s support being reduced when they have increased independence is a fantastic milestone for many, and a proud moment for people in their lives. Research supported by the Scottish Government in our recently published paper No Place Like Home – The Economics of Independent Living show how living independently does not necessarily cost more but leads to much better independence and outcomes.

In our organisation and I suspect many others, support workers argue for a pay rate above the Scottish Living Wage for waking support and recognise sleepovers although work could be the national living wage rate. Thereby still improving pay but not creating further incentive for organisations to corral people in institutions who need sleepover support.

If this move towards the Scottish Living Wage is not funded properly, we will inevitably witness cost cutting exercises in support provision, which means that disabled people will have choice and control removed from their lives to fit a service and budget. This we believe was not the intention of the Self Directed Support Act.

Support work is a rewarding role for all involved, and the relationship between an individual and their worker is an important one. If done properly, good support can allow individuals to live the life they want to lead, and support workers to go on that journey with them. The relationship above all should, and can, be mutually beneficial.

For too long we have heard support workers asking for better conditions being put down as uncaring, which is a complete fallacy, and disabled people rarely get to have a voice on the matter. The debate must not be around support worker versus disabled person over funding, wages, and services – this is a race to the bottom. The interests of disabled people and the people who support them are not mutually exclusive, and they have far more in common than what separates them.

Pete Richmond is chief executive of the Partners for Inclusion Group



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