A waiting game of disrespect: a summer of failure.

Next week brings the return of the parliamentary process in both Scotland and Westminster. Our MSPs will come back together after a summer of book festivals, talk shows and podcasts to govern our nation, make decisions, vote on legislation, and develop policy. September 5th may not be the most exciting date in most of our diaries but the relevance and importance of the next few weeks and months for social care in Scotland cannot be underestimated.

We have had an intriguing summer in the world of social care in Scotland. Regular readers of this blog will have been following the failed attempts by Scottish Care and our care home and homecare provider members to influence the Scottish Government to come true on promises made. But just in case the issues have not been front and foremost in your mind here is a quick recap.

On the 18th April in his first major address to the Scottish Parliament the First Minister Humza Yousaf indicated that it was his intention to pay frontline social care workers £12 an hour but that it could not be yet.

He said:

“We are also committed to improving social care services and to reducing delayed discharges. I know well the workforce challenges that the adult social care sector, in particular, faces. That is why I will commit to a timetable that sets out how this Government will get to £10 an hour for adult social care workers. Although we are not able to afford to do that immediately, I want to send a signal to the sector that we are absolutely serious about improving pay and terms and conditions for those who care for our most vulnerable people.” (Scottish Parliament, Official Record)

He later corrected the error to make it £12 an hour.

We then saw a period of delay, dither and disinterest. Scottish Care and others have spent the summer trying to get a timetable out of the administration. We didn’t manage it in relation to the National Care Home Contract. We didn’t manage it in relation to the failing care at home and housing support organisations. All we have been told is that civil servants and ministers are searching for the monies. That it is a lot of money to find in order to value social care staff I am in no doubt, but they seek it here, they seek it there, and no one can seem to find it anywhere.
In the meantime, the Agenda for Change settlement has started from the 1st April which has now created a massive 19% plus gap between new care worker entrants into the NHS and those coming into third and independent sector social care. In the meantime, we have had a new settlement for dentists and additional funding for community pharmacists. In the meantime, we have had a settlement to the dispute with junior doctors. And still the care sector waits – the signal of being ‘absolutely serious about improving pay and terms and conditions for those who care for our most vulnerable people’ has grown so faint it has become invisible to see.

Can you imagine a Health Secretary or First Minister making a statement that we are going to pay junior doctors or nurses £X amount and then say but we will need to find the money first – just you hold on – and then take 19 weeks (and counting) and the promise has not been fulfilled or come to life? I think not.

Now all of this may come to fulfilment with a pronouncement ex cathedra in the Programme for Government when it appears in a few day’s time. But to be honest the damage is done. Women and men have been leaving the care sector to go elsewhere – and who can blame them – the signal of value and respect – has well and truly been lost; and there is not a hope in the proverbial we will get them back. The damage has also been done by this Government’s inaction to the morale of the frontline women and men who have bust a gut over the last few years – who go out in all weathers to care and support, who put others first and foremost rather than last and forgotten and yet 19 weeks after a promise, despite campaigns and messaging, they seem to count for nothing.

This past week as part of our friends at CCPS’s Four Steps to Fair Work campaign we saw over 400 church leaders sign a statement which amongst other things called for the immediate establishment of £12 an hour for frontline carers across all social care services, not just adult social care. This is a remarkable volume of voices committed to ensuring that social care is valued in Scottish society. In the words of the Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Revd Sally Foster Fulton,

“As people of faith we have a calling to honour care and service….Dignity and respect for others is at the very heart of the faith message… We have the Gospel imperative to look after each other. This includes paying the workers fairly.”

Media stories on the issue this week had a standard Scottish Government response which firstly said that carers have received increased pay in the last year – undeniably true but in a cost-of-living crisis and when everyone else is receiving a lot more than 3.8% this level of self-congratulation is offensive. The second observation from Government was that carers in Scotland are better paid than in England – come on. Again, true but a comparison with mediocrity is nothing to be proud about and to be frank is again offensive to our frontline carers.

An old Highland headmistress of my knowledge who would have been 140 years old if alive today once wrote:

“Respect as a word is easy because all you use is your mouth, but to put respect into action requires you to use your heart.”

This has been a summer of disrespect to social care frontline staff. Words and rhetoric are easy and empty; meaningful and respectful action has been as missing as a Scottish summer heatwave in these last few weeks.

So, First Minister and Health Secretary. I hope you find the money, but more than that I hope you start to really understand social care and start to respect the amazing women and men who work at the frontline, manage services, provide the resource and ideas to give Scotland its rights-based person-led social care delivery.

In keeping with our ecclesiastical theme, here is a poem about respect which has more than a ring of truth in these days for those of us in the world of social care. It is ‘The Nightingale And The Glow Worm,’ by the 18th century English poet William Cowper.

A Nightingale, that all day long
Had cheer’d the village with his song,
Nor yet at eve his note suspended,
Nor yet when eventide was ended,
Began to feel, as well he might,
The keen demands of appetite;
When, looking eagerly around,
He spied far off, upon the ground,
A something shining in the dark,
And knew the glow-worm by his spark;
So stooping down from hawthorn top,
He thought to put him in his crop.
The worm, aware of his intent,
Harangu’d him thus, right eloquent —
Did you admire my lamp, quoth he,
As much as I your minstrelsy,
You would abhor to do me wrong,
As much as I to spoil your song;
For ’twas the self-same pow’r divine
Taught you to sing, and me to shine;
That you with music, I with light,
Might beautify and cheer the night.
The songster heard his short oration,
And, warbling out his approbation,
Releas’d him, as my story tells,
And found a supper somewhere else.

Hence jarring sectaries may learn
Their real int’rest to discern;
That brother should not war with brother,
And worry and devour each other;
But sing and shine by sweet consent,
Till life’s poor transient night is spent,
Respecting in each other’s case
The gifts of nature and of grace.

Those Christians best deserve the name
Who studiously make peace their aim;
Peace, both the duty and the prize
Of him that creeps and him that flies.


Donald Macaskill

Photo by Siim Lukka on Unsplash

Last Updated on 2nd September 2023 by donald.macaskill