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Fair work report calls for “radical overhaul” of funding & commissioning for social care and creation of new sector body

An independent review of working practices in Scotland’s social care sector published on 26 February by Scotland’s Fair Work Convention is calling for urgent interventions by policy makers, commissioners and leaders in the social care sector to improve the quality of work and employment for the 200,000 strong workforce in Scotland. This includes clear recommendations for the Scottish Government to support the creation of a new sector body that establishes minimum standards for fair work terms and conditions and to reform social care commissioning.

The Convention’s 18-month enquiry, led by Henry Simmons, the Chief Executive of Alzheimer Scotland and Lilian Mercer, the Scottish Convener of Unison, involved research and extensive engagement with stakeholders including:

  • research on the work and employment experiences of front line workers, personal assistants and employers from across the care sector in Scotland; and
  • engagement with an expert working group and stakeholders from across the social care sector.

CCPS Director, Annie Gunner Logan sat on the expert working group and CCPS members fed into this initiative in some detail throughout the process.

The inquiry found that:

  • the social care sector is not consistently delivering fair work;
  • the existing funding and commissioning systems are making it difficult for some providers to offer fair work;
  • The social care workforce does not have a mechanism for workers to have an effective voice in influencing work and employment in the sector;
  • failure to address issues such as voice deficit and low pay will significantly contribute to women’s poorer quality of work and Scotland’s gender pay gap;
  • some social care employees do not have secure employment and are expected to work excessive hours in order to take home a fair wage; and
  • The burden of variations in demand for social care is falling heavily on front line staff, who can face zero hour, sessional contracts, working beyond contracted hours and working unpaid overtime to meet the needs of care service users.

The Convention is recommending that the Scottish Government intervenes to establish and support a new sector-level body to ensure effective voice in the social care sector. As an immediate priority, this body should establish a minimum Fair Work contract for social care, which should thereafter underpin commissioning of social care services. Looking forward, this sector-level body could develop a bargaining role in the sector, providing a locus for designing and developing services, training and development and other workforce strategies.

In its recommendations the report also highlights that there is a need for a “radical overhaul” of commissioning practices in social care with a view to ending “current commissioning practices of non-committal hourly ratebased competitive tenders and framework agreements”.