Today I met with a group of care home workers and discussed with them Scottish Labour’s proposal to introduce the ‘Living Wage’ across the care sector.
These workers welcomed this announcement and they made the point to me that recruitment and retention of staff is impacted by the levels of pay and whilst they enjoy the work they do, being paid more than the minimum wage will make a big difference.
I agree, and have experienced first-hand having a family member be cared for by staff in the council and staff in the private sector and whilst both sets of carers were brilliant beyond the call of duty the fact was one group is being paid well above the living wage whilst the other is paid in the main the minimum wage.
The contracts for the care sector are paid for through local authorities and NHS boards and this is why it requires government at a national level to put in the resources that means that all staff in the care sector will be paid at a minimum the living wage.
I have campaigned for this in Parliament and I am delighted that Scottish Labour will make this a key manifesto commitment in 2016.
Giving care workers a real living wage is the kind of long term investment our health service needs, Scottish Labour said.
Deputy Leader Alex Rowley will visit a care home in Edinburgh today (Tuesday) to highlight Scottish Labour’s plan to put more money into the pockets of care workers. At Scottish Labour Conference Kezia Dugdale announced that a Scottish Labour Government would introduce a real living wage for care workers, to make it a career rather than a job with a high turnover rate. One in five care workers leave their job each year.
Mr Rowley said that so many of the problems in the NHS, including lengthy waits at A&E departments, can be caused by problems in the care sector. In August, patients in Scotland spent 48,526 bed days in hospital, even though they were clinically fit to leave.
Alex Rowley said:
“The NHS is our must precious institution. Now more than ever we need a health service free at the point of need and fit for the 21st century.
“Despite the hard work of dedicated NHS staff, our health service is creaking at the seams. Our Accident and Emergency Departments are under strain, and it’s likely to get even worse when winter arrives. The sticking plaster approach of the SNP just isn’t good enough.
“In hospitals across the country patients have to wait for hours in A&E because the beds they should be in are occupied by elderly patients who are fit to go home but can’t because the care package isn’t there.
“The solution to this problem isn’t to send short-term emergency teams to our A&E departments. We need to ensure that people can be cared for at home or in the community and key to that is tackling the recruitment and retention problem in the care sector.
“That’s why Scottish Labour supports a real living wage for care workers, so that we can make caring a career people will chose for the long term. This will improve the care elderly people receive and relieve the pressure on our front line NHS.
“Giving care workers a real living wage is the kind of investment our health service needs. Anyone who has been in receipt of care, or has had a family member receive care, knows that carers are just the salt of the earth. The idea that carers are paid no more than the minimum wage just beggars belief.
“We need to invest in the NHS to make it fit for the 2040s, not the 1940s. By investing in our care workers now we can save hundreds of millions of pounds in the costs of delayed discharge. This money will help us to meet not just the costs of care, but to fund the new cures and treatments the NHS can offer in the years ahead.”