The value of care

September 19th, 2011

It seems that St Andrews’ Day this year will be day of strikes rather than celebrating Scottish history.

Industrial action is back on the agenda with low-paid workers fed-up having to pay the price for the mistakes of the bankers.

One of the most difficult stand-offs is that at Quarriers, which delivers a number of care projects in Inverclyde and all over Scotland.

Staff are understandably aggrieved at being forced to take a 23 per cent pay cut to do a difficult job.

But the financial pressures brought about by falling budgets and a growing demand is forcing difficult compromises all across the sector.

It is important to remember who the real victims are in this – those who need and rely on the care.

They are most vulnerable in society who we have an obligation to look after, and protect from the current uncertainty over staffing and sustainability of service.

But if we are going to ensure they receive the care, support and dignity they need and deserve, we have to address some fundamental problems.

For some time, we have had real problems with low pay and high turnover of staff which is squeezing out the people who deliver this care and lowering standards.

Last week, Lord Sutherland, the architect of free personal care, told my committee how care homes in Edinburgh who have difficulty recruiting workers during the month of August.

Apparently it is more lucrative handing out flyers as part of the festival than it is to provide vital care to the most vulnerable in society.

In the third sector, 79 per cent of third sector organisations have been unable to award a cost of living pay rise for the past three years, 57 per cent have implemented pay freezes and there have been 60 per cent cuts to training budgets.

If that is the reward we attach to this difficult job, it can be no surprise that concerns are raised about standards.

For those who rely on this care, there are very real consequences to all of this.

But if we do not value the people who deliver these care services, then we devalue the care that we provide to them.