October 11, 2023
4 Steps Guest Blog: “Ending the difference in funding levels between services would be a step towards the fairness we need”
A hierarchy in adults and children’s services or between regulated v unregulated services simply means more inequalities, says Fiona Steel, Action for Children’s Acting National Director for Scotland
In the recent Programme for Government the First Minister announced a commitment to ‘provide the necessary funding in the next Budget to increase the pay of social care workers in a direct care role, to deliver funded early learning and childcare, to at least £12 per hour’. As ever, we await the fine print on how this commitment will operate in practice.
While this is a move in the right direction and may go some way to ‘dealing with pay inequality’ – the first step of the 4 Steps to Fair Work campaign – there is still unfortunately a long journey to go before social care and support workers are properly rewarded and recognised. We can’t forget that The Promise stated, ‘the purpose of the workforce must be to be caring above anything else. That starts with recruiting people with the right ethos and qualities rather than qualifications’.
But how do we get these people into social care?
Action for Children knows that there is a current struggle to attract and retain people into the social care workforce. We also know that social care staff are experts in the people they care for. To provide that vital care requires staff to use multiple skills ranging across the clinical, emotional and academic, while also collaborating closely with a myriad of other professionals.
People who choose to work in the care sector display astonishing levels of compassion, empathy, commitment, and kindness to ensure people they care for are made to feel they belong, are safe, loved and valued.
For too often the perception of social care work as being low skill prevailed. This needs to be challenged and changed.
During Covid we did see the beginning of a shift in people’s attitudes towards the sector: our frontline workers were seen as key workers who added social value. Our staff were the people who society relied on in times of crisis but also in times of normality. It’s disappointing that this view change hasn’t been built upon.
We need renewed government support and help to attract and retain staff in the sector.
As an organisation we are focused on investing in our staff. We are dedicated to building a diverse, inclusive, and authentic workplace. We pay the real living wage; we embrace the Government’s Fair Work agenda. We offer excellent training and developments opportunities; we help staff gain professional qualifications and offer flexible working hours. We encourage young people into our workforce, highlighted by the fact we recently gained a Platinum Award from Investors in Young People (IIYP).
However we are still facing recruitment challenges, especially when it comes to the complexity of commissioning of services.
We as a sector need parity. We shouldn’t have a hierarchy between adult and children services or between regulated vs unregulated services. The difference in the levels of funding between each of these areas can create inequalities.
That’s why Action for Children fully supports CCPS’s campaign calls to ensure equal pay for equal work and value all staff who play their part by delivering funding packages that value the crucial role of the different staff who make up the social care workforce.
The third sector delivers many local authority services, but councils are competing with these providers for staff. They are offering more in wages to attract staff than they give in rates in the contracts for providers, ironically making it harder to staff these local services.
Something fundamental needs to change to make sure Scotland has a talent pool for social care that is deeper not shallower. Action for Children believes the 4 Steps to Fair Work campaign can be the catalyst for change needed. That is why we offer it our full support.