Fair pay for our keyworkers
I had the pleasure of meeting with a number of ENABLE Scotland Personal Assistants (PAs) this week on a zoom call, as is becoming the new normal.
One young woman who has started her career in care with us told me that
We have our worries about our own families like everyone else just now. But we leave our own anxieties at the door to be there for the people we support. They need us to do that, and we are happy to do that. We just take each day as it comes.
She is only 24, and I was blown away by her wisdom, and her resolute commitment to the person she supports. It is truly humbling.
PAs on the social care frontline of the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic are true heroes, and the vital contribution they make – now and at all times – is finally getting the widespread recognition it deserves.
That is why today I am delighted that the Scottish Government and COSLA have agreed to implement a fully funded uplift to the new Scottish Living Wage (SLW) rate of £9.30 per hour for every hour worked – including all overnight support – from 1st April 2020.
To be clear – £9.30 per hour is not a fair reflection of the value and the talent of the social care workforce. But getting this minimum entitlement as early as possible in the financial year is a critical step forward.
Three year campaign
Everyone who knows me will be aware of how hard ENABLE Scotland has campaigned over the last three years for the social care workforce to be paid the SLW for every hour worked.
We have always viewed this as a fundamentally important step in boosting positive perceptions of social care as an appealing, rewarding career – and in so doing, attracting and retaining the best talent with the right values to make a difference to the lives of thousands of people.
Our campaign was always twofold;
- To get the SLW fully funded for every hour worked – including overnight support.
- To get the SLW fully funded and paid to all staff from 1 April every year.
We warmly welcomed the Scottish Government’s policy commitment back in 2016 that the SLW would be paid to the social care workforce, with £225 million committed over three years to enable local authorities to fund this uplift.
This policy initially only applied to waking shifts, and yet some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people require a Personal Assistant to stay in their home overnight to provide any care and support they might need.
So ENABLE Scotland yet again proudly campaigned, on behalf our staff and the whole social care workforce, for the SLW to be funded for every hour worked – including overnight support.
We were delighted that the Scottish Government agreed with our position, and notified local authorities that this policy should be implemented by the end of the 2018/19 financial year in response to our campaign.
Reality of implementation
As positive as this was, the reality has been that since then, each care provider has had to directly and individually enter into often long and complex negotiations with up to 32 different local authorities, with a wide range different rates and implementation dates being offered, and, in some cases, taking 11 months to reach an agreement.
This is simply no good for anyone.
It takes up an enormous amount of the time and resources of charities that exist to support our most vulnerable citizens; it requires commissioners to enter complex negotiations with multiple providers (with a total of around 1,000 different third sector and private sector social care providers operating in Scotland this must have been tough); and – most importantly of all – it has meant the frontline staff delivering care in our communities have had to wait many months for a backdated uplift to (hopefully) be secured and paid – all subject to the outcome of those negotiations.
Put bluntly, for these skilled and talented public sector key workers, providing essentially a national care service, to find themselves in this position to be paid a fair wage for the work that they do, has been ridiculous.
Integration and parity of esteem
Today’s announcement is therefore excellent news, not only for the current challenging circumstances, but also in the hope that it paves the way for how things will be done in the future.
Today, as they leave their own families at home in lockdown to go and provide essential care and support to some of our most vulnerable citizens, every social care worker knows that they will be paid at least the Scottish Living Wage rate of £9.30 per hour, for every hour that they are at work, for every day of the 2020-21 financial year.
They also know that there will be no need for their employers to explain that they are involved in lengthy negotiations with their local authority to agree when it can be paid. That really matters – not just in financial terms, but in terms of the position that they hold as part of the fabric of civil society.
The Covid-19 pandemic makes it clearer than ever that excellent self-directed social care – supporting vulnerable people to live the life they choose at home, and simultaneously relieving pressure on the NHS – is an absolutely critical branch of an integrated health and social care system.
This must be a first step on the path to a long-term settlement built on the principles of fair work which embeds parity of esteem for the social care workforce with their brilliant colleagues in the NHS.
As our keyworkers have proven over the past few weeks – and will continue to prove over the difficult days ahead – they deserve no less.