Concerns raised about the viability of Scotland’s social care workforce


A number of concerns have been highlighted about the long-term sustainability of the social care workforce in Scotland by MSPs on the Health and Sport Committee who conducted a short inquiry into the issue.

In a letter to Health Secretary Shona Robison MSP, the Committee has outlined the main issues they consider need to be addressed. They include a lack of value placed on the role of social care workers; the implementation of the Scottish Living Wage; terms and conditions of employment including training and development as well as travel time and expenses.

The Committee also expressed concern over the implication of Brexit on workforce planning which is compounded by an absence of data on the existing workforce.

Convener of the Committee, Neil Findlay MSP said:

“As part of this inquiry we heard directly from social care workers who day in and day out provide high quality care for the most vulnerable people in our society often in very difficult circumstances.

“We were told about their commitment to the job but disappointingly that some aspects of their terms and conditions were below what you would expect in this day and age. Worryingly, the workers we heard from also felt undervalued and not listened to, despite the demanding and vital role they perform.

“This is a particularly critical time for the future of our social care workforce. As our population ages we need to start planning now for the workforce we’ll need in 10 to 20 years’ time. Fortunately a large proportion of the current workforce comes from the rest of the EU. We are calling on the Scottish Government to do all it can in ensuring that EU nationals working in Scotland will be able to remain here.

“If social care continues to be perceived in such a poor light and the career path offered remains poor then the vision about delivering person centred care in the community will remain words that cannot be delivered upon.”

The letter outlines the following issues:

  • Valued role. One of the most common concerns we heard from carers and in our view the most significant is the lack of value placed on the role. Many were embarrassed to tell people what they did for a living and felt that carers were portrayed unfairly in the media. Many spoke of being part of a multi-disciplinary team but not having their concerns listened too.
  • Commissioning of services. Carers also spoke of the time it took to reassess a care plan and additional time to be allocated for those with increasing needs. For example we were told it took 6 weeks to re-assess a person to provide an additional 15 minute visit.
  • Scottish Living Wage (SLW). The Committee heard a number of concerns about the roll-out of the Living Wage including that providers and regulators had not been involved in the introduction of the SLW.
  • Travel time. The Committee heard from staff employed by local authorities, private and third sector providers. They all differed on whether payment was received for time spent travelling between jobs and the rates of mileage for such travel.
  • Contract of employment. Unison suggested that national statistics show that less than 10 per cent of the workforce is on zero hour contracts but this grossly underestimates the reality on the ground. Some staff on zero-hour contracts do not receive sick pay and so were reluctant to take time off when they were un-well.
  • Training and development. The care workers we heard from experienced differing levels of training and development. The Committee believes all those working in the care sector should have access to good and consistent training and development opportunities. Improving terms and conditions can help to make social care an attractive career people will want to enter.
  • Workforce planning and Brexit. We received a suggestion there will be a future need for 60,000 care workers to meet increasing demand. Indications are this future demand will not be met as not enough young people are willing to take on roles in the sector. This workforce concern is compounded by uncertainty surrounding Brexit. We are concerned about the lack of data on numbers of EU nationals working in the health and social care sector.
  • Self-directed support. We understand that self-directed support is under-utilised, particularly among older-people and take-up should be actively encouraged.

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