Last week we saw the Scottish Government officially launch the consultation for a National Care Service. The self-proclaimed ‘biggest public sector reform for decades’ seeks to gather the views of anyone and everyone in Scotland on what a National Care Service should look like.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing if not a journey for the Scottish Government. Fourteen years in power and yet if you had asked Government ministers 18 months ago how social care works in this country, it’s likely the answer would have lacked any real depth and understanding.
Time and time again, care workers have been failed by a lack of concern for what is really happening on the front line, and Government ministers have happily hidden behind nice promises and their civil servants.
The big question now is, will this government and the political leaders of this country really, truly start listening with urgency?
Listening to the workers. Listening to the public. Listening to the people who receive care.
We know they that hear us. They heard us when workers won sick pay for them and their colleagues off with COVID-related illnesses, but not in time to protect thousands of vulnerable citizens living in our care homes and not only taking their lives but the lives of some of those who cared for them.
Instead of systematic changes, we have seen political distraction techniques that have felt like a slap in the face to the workforce. We only need to look at the ill-implemented bonus payment, which reached nowhere near £500 for most workers, to see a political quick fix that fell flat on its face.
When will politicians start addressing the serious concerns from an undervalued, underpaid workforce pushed to the brink over care home deaths, lack of PPE, and lack of routine testing?
Sure, the Government have heard us on these issues, but will they listen?
Short-term fixes are not going to resolve the issues around social care in Scotland. What will start to immediately address workers’ concerns is properly investing in workers, 83% of whom are women, with a minimum wage of £15 an hour for frontline care workers (and pay rises for all those in the sector).
We know that establishing a National Care Service won’t happen overnight, but the power to start valuing our care sector workers lies in the hands of the Scottish Government and can be made in the next budget without delay.
Workers are uniting and organising together through GMB's Fight for £15 campaign to send a message to Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government that this sector can no longer sustain its current course and it cannot wait years for those in power to finally listen and act.
Megan Fisher, GMB Scotland's Women's Campaign Unit