COUNCIL chiefs were today urged to fund a premium pay rise for care staff to beat a recruitment crisis which has left hundreds of vulnerable people without the help they need.
Shocking figures earlier this week revealed 95 people died while waiting for care in Edinburgh last year, with a further 400 waiting and nearly 4000 hours of unmet demand for care.
The Green budget next week will propose a new living wage plus for care workers of £9 per hour – to ensure that more people come to and stay within care work as a rewarding profession.Steve Burgess
Employers, unions and politicians all agreed a key problem was that poor pay rates meant people could earn more working in a supermarket than looking after elderly, disabled and vulnerable people.
Now the city’s Green councillors are proposing a package costed at up to £1.76m to give care workers a “living wage plus” to help make the job more attractive than stacking shelves.
Three-quarters of the council’s care work is contracted out to voluntary organisations and private firms. The council says it has negotiated a deal with providers to ensure care staff get the living wage of £8.25 an hour from April this year.
But retailers like Morrisons and Lidl have recently announced a minimum of £8.20 per hour and council officials have warned paying the living wage may not be enough to recruit and retain care staff.
The Greens propose to uprate the council’s contracts with care providers on the basis that staff are paid a “living wage plus” of £9 per hour.
Green health and social care spokesman Councillor Steve Burgess said: “Social care for some of our most vulnerable citizens is falling far short of what is needed.
“The time for short-term sticking plasters is gone. Properly funded and bold solutions are needed.
“The Green budget next week will propose a new living wage plus for care workers of £9 per hour – to ensure that more people come to and stay within care work as a rewarding profession.
“If we are serious about improving social care then we need to walk the walk not just talk the talk.”
Council health and social care convener Ricky Henderson said he would look at the details of the Greens’ proposal, but he said: “Across the UK, we have allowed the pay and conditions of care workers to dip to a level which is not acceptable – and that has come back to bite us as people make choices about which industry they want to work in.”
Ranald Mair, chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents care providers, said the level of payments made by the city council to care firms did not meet the bare minimum set by the UK Care Home Association.
He said some current providers were deciding whether or not to bid again under a new tender for care work.
But he said: “A wage of £9 an hour would certainly go a long way to allowing providers to recruit and retain staff and build up the capacity needed.”