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IN SCOTLAND we have now entered the campaign for the Scottish Parliament elections on May 6. There are many critical issues facing the nation following more than a year since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the deaths of 150,000 people across Britain.
In total, there have been over 9,000 coronavirus-linked deaths registered in Scotland. So many lives have been lost and others turned upside down by this horrible silent killer.
As the vaccination programme is being rolled out and restrictions are beginning to ease, there is growing light in what has often been a very dark tunnel.
Throughout this period, we have seen workers literally putting their lives on the line from our NHS workers to those providing essential services in local government to those in our energy sector and our supermarkets. Workers have kept our country functioning and running providing some semblance of what was the previous “normal.”
In Scotland, much like the rest of Britain, the initial spread of Covid-19 showed high concentrations in care homes, which is precisely why they have been targeted for the initial phases of the vaccination programme.
Those who have worked in our care homes have provided love, care and attention for our loved ones when we were unable to visit and hold them. A priceless comfort and relief. The workforce, predominately female and low paid, have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
But despite having received plaudits and appreciation from our politicians, when it has come to concrete recognition there has been minimal support and little coming their way.
That’s why Unite Scotland launched a manifesto for Social Care Workers ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections. It’s critical that the nation’s social care sector becomes a key issue during the election campaign.
The manifesto’s five demands are:
- A properly funded and publicly owned National Care Service which involves participation from the trade unions and local government.
- 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 minute 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.
- The Scottish Social Services Council registration fee to be fully funded by the Scottish government.
While the recommendations from the recent Independent Review of Adult Social Care in Scotland — the Feeley Report — did move us forward they didn’t go anywhere near far enough in addressing the chronic levels of low pay, the disparity in terms and conditions between those working in social care and the lack of investment in the sector. At present there are currently no sectoral agreements in place for Third Sector care workers.
Unite will also be running a social media campaign showcasing the lives of those who work in the social care sector and those in receipt of care asking the Scottish public to get behind our manifesto and to make it a decisive factor in their voting decision.
There is no issue of greater importance than the quality of life of our loved ones in receipt of social care and how we reward and value those who give that care.
It’s way beyond time that we started to actually reward and show the same level of care for social care workers and we have a chance to put their heroic work centre stage in the coming weeks.
Pat Rafferty is the Unite Scotland regional secretary.
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