Dear next First Minister of Scotland.
I am writing this open letter to you all appreciating currently that you are very busy campaigning for the role as leader of the SNP and as a consequence as First Minister of Scotland.
You may not be aware that today is the last day of National Careers Week. It is a week where right across the country schools and colleges have been focussing on supporting young people and others to think about their next steps and future careers. In some senses for each of you the campaigns you are all now engaged are about taking your own careers to the next level.
You will therefore doubtless appreciate that the importance of helping young people and others who might be seeking a change in their job role or career is a key part of the work of organisations such as Scottish Care, representing as we do hundreds of charities, private providers and employee-owned organisations in social care who employ tens of thousands of our fellow Scots. As part of our month-long campaign #careaboutcare this past week we have been publishing videos and stories of those who work in homecare and care homes across the country. Who better to tell others of the amazing valuable role of care and support than those who are doing it every day!
Working in care and support is a job like no other. Yet what a care worker does today is unrecognisable to what might have been happening ten or twenty years ago, but we suspect that many people still hold an outdated view of the job of care. Care and support roles are regulated, they require the person to be registered and also over time demand that person gains a qualification. The women and men who work in social care are highly skilled professionals who undertake such important work. This is the life-changing work that helps people remain independent, live the sort of life they want, and if they require additional support to provide that in a way that values their voice, treats them with dignity and which places their control and choice at the centre. Working in care and support is an amazing role. That is why we spend so much time encouraging others as we have with young people this past week to consider a career in care. There are few jobs or careers which allow an individual to change the lives of others quite literally and to be with folks through the hardest and most challenging moments of their life.
I am sure you will therefore have no difficulty in agreeing with me that our frontline carers model the best of who we are as a society and that it is the responsibility and duty of those who lead us, who make decisions around budgets and how we spend our resources, to in turn treat our frontline social care staff with equal dignity, respect, and value.
Yet sadly that is not what we have been hearing in the days since we started our campaign. We are instead hearing from workers who are contemplating leaving the sector because they have been told that all they are worth is £10.90 an hour which is as you know is nearly 20% less than someone doing the same job in the NHS. It doesn’t much feel to them that there is value and respect. We are hearing that the lack of fair contracts and low levels of resource are stopping employers from offering better terms and conditions, including secure salaries to frontline workers. We are hearing that people are exhausted and tired because they continue to face so many challenges and risks to their health, yet they do not have the protections that others have. We are hearing of dedicated skilled individuals growing weary that years of promise and declared priority have come to nothing.
Our simple ask of you is ‘How much do you really value social care both in terms of its workforce and its organisations?’
I know that campaigns are often full of rhetoric and promises but the women and men who are struggling through snow and poor weather conditions today at all times of the day to go out and care for others – they deserve to know what you plan to do about social care if you become First Minister? How much in very straight terms are you prepared to pay our frontline carers? Will you continue to say £10.90 is all they are worth because that is what you can afford? Will you find monies as you did for the teachers and our NHS colleagues or do social care staff not count in the same way and are somehow lower down on the scale of value? So please tweet, speak or announce what your plans for social care are.
Those who are contemplating a career in social care regardless of their age deserve to know under your leadership the extent to which you value them, the organisations that employ them and perhaps most of all the people who receive the care and support they provide. Is it worth making social care a career for life? Are we going to see our frontline care and support staff receive a pay award that treats them with dignity and respect?