4 Steps Guest Blog: “It’s too easy to think that social care is about someone else. It’s about all of us”

Providers must have better resourcing to reflect the societal importance of our work in communities across Scotland, says Andrew Thomson, Deputy CEO of Carr Gomm

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others“.

George Orwell’s fusion of political and artistic purpose was always intended to have a wider application than simple political satire. Social care in Scotland can often feel ripe for satire, although there is nothing funny about systematic underappreciation and underfunding.

Inelegant tension exists throughout, and remains inexplicably embedded in, our system. The maxim from improvement science states that “every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”, and we have a system that Derek Feeley describes as containing “unwarranted local variation, crisis intervention, a focus on inputs, a reliance on the market, and an undervalued workforce”.

Scottish Government policy sets the minimum adult social care wage. The Scottish Government and CoSLA decide the financial uplifts to cover the costs of the policy. Social care providers implement the policy and volubly articulate again the wider implications, failings, and consequences of the policy. We’ll do it all again next time too. Our system is designed to aggregate the underfunding and to ignore the cost-of-living crisis; we get poorer each time we go around. There is no sign of the powerful recognising that the social care system is increasingly unsustainable.

The Scottish Government has set the wage at £10.90/hr, or 104% of the statutory minimum wage. The Scottish Government sets the value of working in our sector. Practitioners working for local authorities or the NHS are excluded from the Government’s policy and are paid more than 20% more for undertaking equal work. All practitioners are equal, but

It feels like a lifetime ago that we clapped our hands on a Thursday night in acknowledgement of the essential work undertaken by key workers as Covid ravaged our lives and freedoms. We recognised the importance in society of those that care for others. It is too easy to think that social care is about someone else, but social care is relevant to our colleagues, our friends and families, our neighbours. Ourselves.

Every one of us has the right to live a full life. And every one of us should have the right to be supported by a practitioner that has been comprehensively inducted, continually developed, registered with a professional body, professionally qualified, scrutinised by an external regulator, and appropriately remunerated. We have all of the former, we simply need to recognise – as Feeley already has – the latter: that our workforce is undervalued.

As a first step, the First Minister has committed to raising the wages of frontline adult social care professionals to £12/hr. It’s a small step on the road towards appropriate remuneration, although thus far, the Scottish Government has not published a timeline and so we wait. I call on the First Minister to implement this improvement from 1 April 2023.

The oft-quoted, lazy narrative about social care is that it is broken. But Carr Gomm is not broken. The people we support are not broken. We simply need better resourcing to adequately reflect the societal importance of our essential work in communities throughout Scotland.

Andrew Thomson is Deputy Chief Executive of Carr Gomm, a leading social care and community development that supports over 3000 people a week across Scotland.

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