SPAEN CEO, Colin Millar, has described the Scottish Government’s recent decision not to provide funding for the charity as “incongruent and out of touch” as the charity temporarily suspends trading due to an ongoing dispute with Ministers and civil servants.
“At a time when the Scottish Government is forging ahead with their, as yet, opaque plans for a National Care Service, telling people that it will remove local variations and bureaucracy, to then decide that an institution such as SPAEN doesn’t fit with a national model for social care provision is incongruent and out of touch.
SPAEN is the ONLY national charity in the U.K. providing supports and services that seek to establish consistent, fair work practices and all the benefits that employing PA’s brings to social care users. Removing that support creates a postcode lottery, the very thing the Scottish Government claims it is seeking to remove.
SPAEN, in partnership with other 3rd sector organisations, campaigned and lobbied to get PA employers the right to be recognised as ‘Scottish Living Wage Accredited’ employers. It has worked with private sector organisations to keep down the cost of insurance policies, open up access to formal and accredited training for PA’s; ensure PA employers know and comply with employment legislation and regulation; fought for access to work-based employee support programmes; refused to endorse ‘zero-hours contracts’ and drive up the standards of both employers and the conditions of employees throughout Scotland.
We fought hard to get PA’s access to PPE and other arrangements at the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, we ended up representing unpaid carers who felt equally forgotten and abandoned and we made sure PA’s and their employers got equal access to vital equipment when no-one else was there to speak up for them. Our reward was a 50% reduction in grant funding, serving to significantly reduce our ability to actively and properly represent our constituents – our members.
We wanted to continue doing all of this and much more as we moved, we had hoped in partnership with the Scottish Government, to consistent models of PA employment as part of the transition to a National Care Service. Instead, the Scottish Government decided that it wasn’t a priority and it wasn’t worthy of continued financial support.
Essentially, the Scottish Government is now moving the social care postcode lottery from home care to direct payments and dressing it up as progressive.”
Colin notes “We invited Kevin Stewart and Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Health & Social Care, to come and discuss their decision with PA employers and get, first hand, an understanding of the impact their decision would have on people relying on Direct Payments. Both declined.
How can you make a decision that affects so many people and that is so out of step with your stated policy aims and think you’ve got it right?”
SPAEN continues to seek meaningful engagement and dialogue with either Minister and aims to resume trading as soon as is practicable but Colin states the writing is on the wall for Direct Payments:
“Look at the numbers of people using Direct Payments; look at the lack of support available to these people; look at the decreasing and now lack of investment in SPAEN and then tell me how people are supposed to manage a Direct Payment and staffs without affecting other aspects of their life. Direct Payments is about enabling and empowering people to have a good life, not exchanging the difficulties they experience in daily life as a result of their disability for the stresses and strains of being a PA employer.
“The Scottish Government’s approach appears to be – do less of what’s working and expect better results. Don’t speak to anyone who knows the realities because we know best. All their focus is on creating a National Care Service and congratulating themselves for their stellar work whilst leaving PA employers languishing in the myriad complexities that are Direct Payments and expecting people to enjoy a better quality of life.
I genuinely fear for the future of PA employers and Direct Payments in Scotland. There is now no national support structure, there’s no joined up approach and there’s no sign of one being in place, there’s no strategy that I can find and there appears to be no willingness to listen or learn from the people who know best, the people living Direct Payments on a daily basis.
PA employers have, once again, been forgotten and abandoned and this is despite the First Minister’s assurance this was not and would never be the case.”