Living Wage partnership launched to end shortage of personal carers
A Scottish Government Minister has endorsed an initiative to address a serious shortage of carers for people who have been assessed as requiring social care support.
Jamie Hepburn, the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, welcomed the proposal, adding “The Scottish Government is clear that people who work in social care support provide an invaluable service and it’s absolutely right that they should be paid the real living wage.”
The Minister said the government’s commitment around the real living wage for adult social care staff was recognised by the Fair Wage Convention as an important step in addressing some of the challenges in the sector. He added: “The promotion of living wage accreditation for people employing their own carers is a great way of recognising that all social care workers should be paid the real living wage.”
The partnership between the Scottish Personal Assistant (PA) Employers Network (SPAEN) and the Workers Educational Association (WEA) will work to raise awareness amongst the PA employer network of the benefits of becoming Living Wage accredited and how this can help them to recruit and retain talented staff.
The partnership aims to provide practical support, guidance and assistance to PA employers to apply for and achieve Living Wage accreditation. Once accredited employers will be entitled to display the Living Wage Employer trademark on any associated job adverts. This accreditation is fast becoming a clear symbol of responsible employment practice among job applicants and will help PA employers secure status as employers of choice in the care sector.
Direct Payments, a means through which individuals can employ their own carers directly, was initially launched in 1998 but the number of people using this as a way of meeting their requirements continues to be very low.
A major part of the slow growth has been a dearth of available carers or PAs to meet the demand. The public perception of the role of personal carer has often been negative, with people wrongly assuming it is low paid, insecure and largely unrewarding work.
The payment of the real Living Wage (rLW) and being an rLW Accredited Employer aims to be a symbol of responsible business practice among employers, demonstrating that they are willing to go further than minimum wage levels and enabling their employees to better meet the costs of living. For employees in receipt of the rLW it is a sign that they are valued by their employers, that the work they do is important and it can be the basis of a worthwhile career.
SPAEN provides support to people who employ their own Personal Assistant whilst the WEA, via the Personal Assistants Network, supports PAs.
Offering Direct Payments, enabling people to become PA employers and the PA workforce are a vital part of national and local government’s aspirations to achieve person centred care in the community. Under the Self-Directed Support Strategy and Act, people in Scotland with assessed social care needs are offered the opportunity to receive a Direct Payment, a cash sum paid to the individual or their representative to enable them to purchase the care and support they require and desire to meet their assessed needs. This care is typically provided by PAs who support their respective employers’ in their own home or in the local community enabling eligible individuals to have more control over how, where, when and by who their assessed needs are met.
By paying the real Living Wage, it is hoped PA employers will be able to attract high quality personal assistants who can be secure in the knowledge they are receiving the market rate for their work. For the Personal Assistants themselves and those who aspire to be Personal Assistants, payment of the real Living Wage creates more and different career opportunities within the care sector and it is hoped this will also drive up awareness and recognition of the vital role PA’s play in Scotland’s social care mix.
Colin Millar, Chief Executive Officer at SPAEN, said “We’re delighted that our members and PA employers across Scotland will now be able to get the recognition they deserve as accredited living wage employers. This will help them to find, recruit and retain the very best, committed and skilled individuals and will demonstrate that private employment by Direct Payment users is a critical role in enabling people to live healthy, happy and meaningful lives within Scotland’s communities.
“Our own membership currently accounts for around £15m of social care spending each year, most of this going toward wages for PA’s delivering person-centred, flexible and vital support that enables people to continue living in their own homes or communities. For these committed employers to gain the same recognition as many of the bigger companies who are competing for the skills and talents of people in the community, this recognition will make a massive difference and will allow them to show that the role of a PA is extremely rewarding, both financially and in terms of job satisfaction’’.
Ray McCowan, Director of WEA Scotland, added “The WEA is delighted to be working in partnership with SPAEN and supported by the Poverty Alliance to promote the payment of the real Living Wage to all PAs across Scotland. PAs play an invaluable role in providing essential high-quality care to their service users. This work deserves to be recognised and rewarded appropriately through the payment of the real Living Wage and the WEA is proud to be working with SPAEN and the Poverty Alliance to achieve that.”
Jack Evans, Manager at Living Wage Scotland, which is hosted at the Poverty Alliance, said: “Living Wage Scotland’s mission is to tackle in-work poverty. The project is based on the twin belief that those working should not be earning less than they need to live on and that when employers choose to go beyond the minimum, they can see tangible business benefits. I welcome the announcement that SPAEN and WEA will be working in partnership to promote Living Wage accreditation throughout their networks.”