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Communications Index | Press releases | Scotland inUNISON | Campaigns


Date: Wednesday 19 February 2014

It’s time to care, says UNISON as survey reveals Scotland’s care crisis

A survey of Scottish homecare workers has exposed the shocking reality of the country’s care services.

The majority of workers polled in the UNISON survey believe the service is not sufficient to meet the needs of the elderly and vulnerable people they care for – both from the time they can spend and the quality of care they can provide. Almost half of carers (44%) said they were limited to specific times to spend with their clients. One in two workers are not reimbursed for travelling between client visits, while three in four said they expected the situation to get worse over the coming year.

The survey – Scotland: It’s Time to Care – also revealed that one in ten are on zero hours contracts. This is being fuelled by the way councils commission care and is leading to worse services for the elderly and some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

UNISON Scotland Deputy Convener Stephen Smellie said:

“Our care services are hanging by a thread and this survey shows that as austerity has bitten, it is the elderly and vulnerable in our community who are paying the price. The elderly in our society deserve better – much better – and so do care workers.”

The shocking results of this survey will be a focus of a debate on Scotland’s care services that will take place later today (Wednesday). Organised at The Gathering, the event – Scotland’s Care of the Elderly: a national disgrace? – will bring together key figures in the public and voluntary sectors, including UNISON, Alzheimer Scotland and Labour MSP Neil Findlay.

Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, will be speaking at the event and will say:

“This report gives staff at the front line of care delivery the chance to tell their story about care in Scotland and it doesn’t make comfortable reading. It should be a wake-up call for the Scottish Government and commissioning bodies to take action to end the race to the bottom in care provision.

“Procurement action includes a requirement that all care provision should mandate:

· The Scottish Living Wage: this will help the recruitment and retention of staff and support continuity of care

· Improved training: to ensure that care is delivered by properly qualified staff

· Proper employment standards: ending the abuse of zero and nominal hour contracts

· Adequate time to care in every care visit.

“Fairly paid, well-trained staff on proper contracts with time to care is the very least older people in our communities have a right to expect.”


Notes to editors

1. The full UNISON Scotland survey – Scotland: It’s Time to Care – can be accessed on our website at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/socialwork/timetocare.pdf

Tome to care pages at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/socialwork/timetocare

2. The survey was carried out throughout Scotland and the figures included are based on the results of more than 300 homecare workers throughout the community and voluntary sector, local government and the NHS.

3. The debate – Scotland’s Care of the Elderly: a national disgrace? – is being held today at 2.30pm in Glasgow. More information is available on The Gathering’s website

4. Dave Watson gave oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament ICC committee on 4 December 2013, to explain UNISON’s concerns over the impact of zero, or nominal hours contracts on care workers.

He told the committee: “Along with zero-hours contracts, we would include people with nominal-hours contracts, by which I mean people who have a contract for, say, 10 hours but regularly work 15 or 20 hours. People will always say that there are people who want such contracts—and there are, in some areas—but that is not the norm, particularly in areas such as care. We need to be clear that, in those circumstances, zero-hours contracts have some unfortunate impacts that may not always be obvious. Interestingly, some of those are similar to the impacts of blacklisting.

“The other day, I was doing a focus group with a group of care workers and I said to those who were on zero-hours or nominal-hours contracts, “Would you raise health and safety issues with your employer?” They said, “We’re on these contracts. If we raise health and safety issues, we will not be asked back.” That is exactly the position that colleagues were in with blacklisting. Sadly, when I then asked them, “What if you saw care abuse?”, they said, “We’d be pretty reluctant to raise that as well, to be honest, for the same reason.” People on zero-hours or nominal-hours contracts who raise difficult questions do not get asked back, and people are concerned about that.”

The full report can be found on the Scottish Parliament’s website (see section 2310) http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/