Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) CEO Rachel Cackett reflects on the disappointments and successes of the 4 Steps to Fair Work campaign – and what its emerging movement can do next in its fight for social justice
“You can survive, but you can’t really live.”
Those words from Derek, a frontline social care worker, have echoed around my head during our #4StepsToFairWork campaign. They describe what it feels like to live on the amount the Scottish Government makes available to our members to pay staff who provide support to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. People we all clapped through Covid. The people who might work to support my family or yours.
It’s the quietest national scandal that, behind doors in streets and villages across Scotland, are people who need support to live, to thrive, to be well, to stay independent, who can’t get it because there simply aren’t the staff.
It’s the quietest national scandal that social care and support staff working in our sector – the vast majority of them women – are paid 20% less to deliver public services, from our taxes, than people doing equivalent work in the NHS.
So, at the start of 2023 we decided it was time to stop being quiet and call for better, loudly.
Our demands weren’t huge. Simply, we wanted all staff to get at least £12 per hour from April 2023 as the first step of a public plan to pay people fairly. A plan to give staff, and the people they support, hope.
And our #4StepsToFairWork campaign began to snowball.
Frontline staff and CEOs from our member organisations stood up and spoke up. And then others joined. Carer organisations, Scotland’s faith leaders, partner organisations, people with experience of care and support all spoke up through blogs, emails to MSPs, social media posts. I would like to personally thank every one of you who did so. In a sector, based on the rights of people to exercise choice and control about their own care and support, our diversity and our voice are our strengths.
Then, early in our campaign, our new First Minister stood up to give his first speech to the Scottish Parliament.
“Equality, Opportunity, Community” he said. Those are the government’s new priorities. “That’s social care!”, we thought.
A commitment to £12 an hour, he said. “At last!”, we thought. The voices had been loud enough for him to hear.
But then he gave no date.
A crisis heard, but half a promise made. And a crashing disappointment for the thousands of committed staff in our sector, and to the leaders trying to keep their organisations open.
140 days later the date came in the Programme for Government – £12ph from April 2024. We hoped for a mistake in the speech, but no. A year late and by then, again too little.
And no plan.
Of course I am disappointed that the voices of so many have not resulted in our asks being met in full. That the national scandal of the Scottish Government baking in inequity to social care, and leaving people without the support they need, remains. But is it over? Absolutely not.
The door is open. We just need to push it a bit further.
Your voices were so loud, your arguments so clear, that our new FM knew he had to make a commitment to our sector in his first speech. We shouldn’t ignore this; we should build on it.
For the first time, the pay award has been extended to those working in children’s services: a first inequity addressed through our campaign.
The collective, public, voice of our sector and our allies is building to bring social justice to social care and support. Nurturing that emerging movement in the run-up to elections, as parties set their new priorities, is crucial.
And finally – and importantly – let’s remember that the £12 announcement might be made, but the Scottish Budget is not yet passed. Every MSP has an opportunity to speak up to call for more, for better. All of us can still call on politicians, whose core job is to allocate tax payers’ money to fund priorities for our nation, to make a better decision.
So, our #4StepsToFairWork campaign concludes today; but our campaign for better for our sector does not.
Watch this space….
Rachel Cackett is CEO Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS)
Main image illustration by Ross Richardson (www.rossrichardson.com.au).