The Edinburgh Integrated Joint Board met on Tuesday 8th August. It seems that the proposed public consultation on closure of publicly run care homes will not begin until December 2022. Members of Edinburgh Trades Union Council (ETUC) submitted deputations on care and we reproduce them here. ETUC would welcome comments from social care workers, carers and clients. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass your comments on.
DEPUTATION TO EDINBURGH JOINT INTEGRATION BOARD 9/8/22
Since the end of the lockdown, social care providers in Edinburgh have been experiencing a problem of recruitment and retention of staff that is increasing exponentially. Many social care workers have left the sector because of traumatic experiences during covid ( lack of PPE and guidance, stress etc) . This problem of recruitment and retention has been amplified by the consequences of Brexit and the cost of living crisis.
Social care workers don’t want to remain in a sector that pays low wages and demands a high level of responsibilities, a sector that is not able to meet inflation when it comes to annual pay raises. A substantial number of care workers are moving to other sectors like retail, where terms and conditions are similar and even better , and they have less responsibilities.
Union reps and members are reporting staffing levels so low that social care workers are expected to work 24 hours shifts, as many as three per week. Sometimes the provider is not able to supply enough staff to cover shifts ( ie. If two service users who are in a two to one support plan leave nearby, sometimes instead of having 4 workers available for the whole shift, they have three workers, one of them floating in between flats). Social care workers are exhausted.
We are aware that in many cases new staff members don’t receive adequate induction to the job, in some cases no induction whatsoever. We are talking about workers who support adults in the community with high levels of care and support needs, including challenging behaviour, learning difficulties , mental health issues, addiction problems etc.
It is easy to see this low level of staffing and lack of adequate induction/training has also other major implications in terms of Health and Safety.
Exhausted and /or under trained workers make mistakes, mistakes in this field can have huge implications for the wellbeing of the people receiving the service and the care workers. ( ie, mistakes with medications, accidents/incidents with the use of appliances like hoist.) Our reps are reporting an increase in the number of care workers being assaulted in the workplace by service users and an increase in stress-related sickness absence. No wonder, many new staff members don’t last in the job because there are no resources in place to enable them to do the job with confidence and safely.
Even more worrying from the union’s point of view, is the increase of disciplinary processes and dismissals taking place in workplaces when incidents occur because of the reasons we just listed. Workers are being punished by employers who have not been able to provide proper training and who have asked workers to do 24 hours shifts. In essence workers are being made responsible for their employer’s failure to manage a service. Workers are being punished because there are not enough resources available in the sector to make it possible to work safely. This is the last turn of the screw, for many workers in the sector.
We call for the EIJB to commit to properly fund social care services in the city to sort this problem.
Edinburgh Social Care Consultation and the current crisis in Social Care
I wish to thank the Board for agreeing to hear our deputation from Edinburgh Trade Union Council. My name is Des Loughney and I am the secretary of Edinburgh TUC. The other member of the delegation is Carmen Simon who is the vice chair of Edinburgh TUC and who is a social care worker. She has over ten years experience of being a frontline social care worker in Edinburgh.
We wish to comment under two headings of your agenda. The first is item 6.3 which is the Lothian Strategic Development Framework which we believe encompasses the forthcoming public consultations on the future of the four care homes and the future of social care in Edinburgh. We also wish to comment on the current worsening crisis in third sector social care provision in Edinburgh. We wish to comment on the letter we were copied into dated 2nd August from the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Parnership and signed by Jacqui Macrae, who is a non voting member of the EIJB.
I will be addressing the Board on the public consultation issues, as we perceive them, and my colleague will talk about the current crisis in social care which is having a detrimental effect on the quality of social care and the terms and conditions of the workforce.
As we had not heard for some months about the consultations we thought it would be worth saying to the Board how we expect the consultations to be conducted and what information we will need to come to a view on the consultation options. As we have said in previous deputations the information the public and the local trade union movement receive should help with answering our questions and not just the questions of the Board and management. We do not want options to be curtailed by financial assumptions which beg political assumptions about the funding available.
The report in 6.3 touches on the shortage of workers due to demographic changes. That is one factor but there are other factors which influence the availability of social care workers. We hope that the consultation will provide full information on how BREXIT has affected labour availability; on the lack of skills and training,on poor terms and conditions, and the absence of attractive career progression that might result in a higher income, and on the physical and mental health impacts of understaffing and lack of good support and supervision. We hope that the form of the consultation will recognise that trade unions are essential stakeholders in the provision of a quality service and their concerns need to be addressed. We hope that the consultation will address the stark contradiction that workers in the third sector and the private sector who do similar work to those employed in the public sector get paid much less per hour and do not enjoy the benefits of contractual sick pay and similar pensions.
We hope that the consultations later in the year will apply the same analysis of the private sector as it applied to the public sector. The EIJB accepted that that the four care homes were not up to modern standards and could not be refurbished to those standards. There was no analysis of the standards in the private sector which the COVID period showed were often inadequate. We refuse to accept the view of the EIJB that the private sector are ‘partners’ in the provision of social care. The main concern of the private sector is all about making profit. The private sector has an ethos and system of values that is far removed from being part of the welfare state and providing a quality service to the public and employing skilled workers on decent terms and conditions. This has always been seen as inappropriate for the NHS and should be seen as inappropriate for social care.
The trade union movement, and we believe the public, will want the consultations to be frank about the future role of the private sector in Edinburgh. We believe that the forecast increased demand for low level social care, for moderate social care needs, for substantial social care needs, for critical social care needs, should be met by public sector or by third sector provision. We want the consultations to provide the public with the information to choose this option if they wish. The option should be not be removed because the officials believe that the private sector are essential partners whose role cannot be altered or must increase. We do not think it is right that it can be suggested by the EIJB that there is no practical alternative to handing over social care in Edinburgh to the private sector.
We have some questions regarding the letter from Jacqui Macrae. We would ask why the trade union movement and the public should have confidence at all in the Consultation Institute. I have looked at their website and they do not claim any expertise in consultations that deal with complex workforce issues or critically evaluating the role of the private sector. The letter later refers to ‘stakeholders’ and the long term care options they would wish to see. We would like specific reference to and acknowledgement to be made that key stakeholders are the social care workforce and their trade unions. Why is the summer needed to identify the concept that the workforce and their unions are key stakeholders?
The letter refers to ‘ we will share our vision, and present and show data providing context on the Edinburgh picture we now know and in the future’. We hope that this will be true and will take account of the impact of Long Covid and the postponements and delays in treatment/operations that were an outcome of the ongoing Covid epidemic. The experience of COVID has redefined future social needs. We hope that a full account will be taken of the growing impact of the cost of living crisis, fuel poverty and child poverty.
Thank you for listening to me. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you might have.
Edinburgh Trade Union Council