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Securing fairness and justice for Scotland’s social carers

Profit-driven private contractors must play absolutely no role in the new national care service, writes Unite Scotland regional secretary PAT RAFFERTY

IT IS widely recognised that there is a crisis in our care sector that requires a complete overhaul of how care is delivered in Scotland. The task is so huge that for decades it has been kicked into the long grass.

Proposals for a national care service have finally been published, with the Scottish government stating that it wants it to be fully operational by 2026.

But exactly what type, form and shape of service this actually means in practice is one of the biggest wrangles in Scottish domestic politics.

So far, the Scottish government has been vague and unclear in the extreme about the mechanics of its proposals — possibly deliberately so.

What is clear is that workers, organisational bodies and service users have identified that the level of care currently provided is not good enough.

What should this new service look like? From Unite’s perspective it must be properly funded and publicly owned involving direct involvement from trade unions and local government. We have specifically called for:

  • A minimum of £15 an hour for all social care workers
  • A minimum floor of terms and conditions for all social care workers which includes two 30 minutes paid rest breaks, access to enhanced sick pay and consistent provision of pensions
  • The establishment of collective bargaining in all areas of social care services including the third sector and private sector. At present there are currently no sectoral agreements in place for third sector care workers
  • The Scottish Social Services Council registration fee to be fully funded by the Scottish government.

The experience of the NHS and local authorities over the last decade has been one of severe underfunding which is at the crux of the problem.

Based on this experience there should be no expectations that the new national care service will be any different, unless it is given the resources and funding to properly run it.

For Unite, accountability is a major issue at play in the development of the new service. It has got to be democratically accountable and delivered locally.

Our NHS and local authorities are currently the backbone of care in Scotland and this should be built upon, not diluted.

The new service cannot be a vehicle or a Trojan horse for the further expansion of the private sector.

We know that private companies, who are profit driven at the expense of care, are viewing the new service as a much sought after opportunity.

How do we know this? There have been a number of private consultancy firms awarded contracts in association with the national care service. Unite has severely criticised the contract awards to consultants such as KPMG and PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) as part of the ongoing work to deliver the new service.

KPMG was recently awarded a £546,000 contract. It has now received close to £3 million in government contracts since the start of the pandemic to support Scotland’s health and social care services.

This includes contracts associated with the Covid-19 vaccination programme and the design of the new national care service.

PwC also secured a £250,000 contract in 2020 to advise the Scottish government on the “redesign of the health and social care system.”

Let’s be clear, these consultants have one objective which is to maximise the role of the private sector and to extract profit.

We believe that the privatisation of care is a failed policy. This has been proved time and again. Some private care providers have even offshored profits to tax havens while attacking workers’ pay, terms and conditions.

It’s our firm belief that the new national care service must be both an accountable and genuine public service.

The motive of profit must be completely removed from its operations. We have pressed the Scottish government to no avail so far for an end to all contracts being outsourced to the private sector over the development of the service and we will continue to do so.

We can all agree that there is no issue of greater importance than the quality of life our loved ones receive in social care.

However, we need to equally ensure that we deliver a new national care service which fairly and justly rewards those who give that care.

To achieve this we must start with a proper plan and that’s what Unite believes it has for the benefit of communities, workers and service users.

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