Perfect storm could sink charities as living wage kicks in

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​Charities could go to the wall as they struggle to meet rising demand, lower income and a new pay stipulation

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30th September 2016 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

Scotland’s social care charities are on the brink of an unprecedented crisis as the clock ticks to the deadline for paying staff the Scottish Living Wage.

By Holyrood decree, from 1 October all care workers – which includes thousands of third sector employees – must be paid at least £8.25 per hour.

The Scottish Government has provided some cash to councils to allow this to happen – but charities say it isn’t enough and confusion reigns across the country as desperate negotiations take place between employers and councils, who also complain of a shortfall.

A messy national picture is emerging of uncertainty, confusion and fear.

The situation has been likened to a “perfect storm” enveloping the sector – with the living wage adding to a maelstrom caused by funding cuts and rising demand.

Many social care organisations will not survive and vulnerable people will be left to pick up the pieces

In a hard hitting blog for TFN, the boss of one of Scotland’s largest social care charities said some might go to the wall as a result of the crisis.

Theresa Shearer, chief executive of Enable, welcomed moves to pay staff fairly and said this is the way ahead.

But she questioned where the cash is coming from. Her own organisation, for example, will have to find hundreds of thousands more per year, and that’s before the £8.25 rate rises further in November.

She said: “I believe this is a perfect storm for social care in Scotland.

“Everyone involved – providers, national and local government, and the wider third sector – must start to think differently, and quickly. This is not about battening down the hatches and waiting till the storm passes. As tough as it will be, we need to tackle it head on.

“If not, I fear that many social care organisations will not survive, and vulnerable people across Scotland – and their families – will be left to pick up the pieces.”

She said it is crucial now that the Scottish Government takes a lead not just in demanding results from the sector, but in starting a meaningful dialogue on how the results are to be achieved – and facilitating national negotiations on the practicalities.

She also called on third sector employers to look at themselves and how they operate to see if there is any way it could adapt to the changes, without affecting frontline services.

Shearer said: “As a sector also have to start taking responsibility and talking about what we can do to make this affordable so that our staff, and ultimately, the people we support, get the best deal. We have to start thinking differently.”

This partially echoes the thinking of public sector union Unison, whose voluntary sector organiser Deborah Dyer told TFN recently that it is time charities started working smarter and looked at issues like chief executive pay and even mergers if changes are to be pushed through and staff and services protected.

Speaking ahead of the 1 October deadline, Dyer said the union will be monitoring how the new pay rate is implemented and taking action where appropriate.

She said: ‘Unison has led the talks with the Scottish Government for care workers to be paid at least £8.25 per hour. It will make a huge difference to a large, low paid, mostly women workforce. This is a good day which we have all worked very hard for.

“It is crucial that we now ensure this policy is enforced across the sector. There are thousands of care providers in Scotland and Unison is working in partnership with others to make sure they all pay the living wage.

“This is big first step to reforming this sector. Care workers tell us that their number one concern is that they get time to care for their patients. Unison is continuing to campaign to improve terms and conditions of care workers. And would like to hear from care workers about their experience. Especially if they are not being paid the living wage.”

A spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities admitted there are a "number of challenges both financially and practically" to overcome in paying the Scottish Living Wage but said that it will happen as Scotland's council leaders are committed to it.

Health secretary Shona Robison said: “This year we’re investing £250 million from the NHS to protect and grow our social care services, including paying adult care workers the real living wage. This is on top of the £500m we’re already investing over three years to support the integration of health and social care.

“We recognise the complexities of implementation and earlier this month we wrote to commissioners to identify any local issues, so further support could be provided where needed.

“Good progress has been made in many areas and remaining negotiations are taking place. This is an ambitious commitment which will allow councils to commission adult social care from the independent and voluntary sectors on the basis that care workers are paid the real Living Wage of £8.25 an hour – giving up to 40,000 people, mainly women, doing some of the most valuable work in Scotland a well-deserved pay rise.”

How has the implimentation of the living wage policy affected you or your employer? Are you recieving it? Leave a comment below or email, in strict confidence, [email protected].

3rd October 2016 by Shelley Laing

Shearer said: “As a sector also have to start taking responsibility and talking about what we can do to make this affordable so that our staff, and ultimately, the people we support, get the best deal. We have to start thinking differently.”Here comes the point when organisations like Enable start to pay people more per hour but give people less hours. Bye bye career, hello in work poverty. How many full time staff do Enable have Theresa? Not many at the front line I'll bet.Care organisations will drive down the hours to maintain their income, disabled people will get less quality care and councils will start to award less and less hours to disabled people.