In the short time available to me, I will cover two specific issues, both of which relate to the importance of the social care workforce. We know that the quality of social care is fundamentally about resources, and the biggest resource of all is the workforce. Without that dedicated workforce, the system would simply collapse. We know about the challenges of recruitment and retention in social care, and there is no doubt in my mind that they will be exacerbated by Brexit, but there is much that we can do.
The sector is growing and the need for social care is increasing. Whether it is someone with a learning disability who needs support or an older person requiring a night-time tuck-in service, the care that is provided is essential to their wellbeing. Recently, the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee recognised, for the first time in the Scottish Parliament’s history, that care is a key growth sector that matters fundamentally to our economy. The committee recommended that Scottish Enterprise treat it as such but, unfortunately, ministers thought otherwise. I ask them to think again, because caring and the jobs in the sector make a hugely important contribution to the Scottish economy.
The workforce is predominantly feminised and is characterised by low wages and part-time temporary work. That needs to change. We, as a society, need to value the service that carers provide, and one obvious way of doing that is through their pay packets. The Scottish Government allocated additional money for local government to pay the living wage for waking-hours care from October 2016. Scottish Labour campaigned for that, and I welcome it very much. During the passage of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill, the SNP refused our calls for the Government to pay the living wage to all employees on public contracts, but I am glad that it has changed its mind and has done that for social care staff.
I welcomed, too, Shona Robison’s announcement in October 2017 that the living wage was also to apply to staff providing night-time cover. That was to be implemented this year, in 2018-19, and the Scottish Government gave additional funds to health and social care partnerships to do it. The living wage was to be in place for all staff, whether for daytime or night-time cover, and not just for those employed directly by the local authority but for those employed in the private and voluntary sectors.
However, the reality on the ground is very different, as we have heard from members today. I will tell members about the experience of one of the largest third sector providers of social care. It is keen to pay its staff the living wage for sleepovers, and their trade union is keen for that to happen. However, the delivery of the policy on the ground is patchy. Services that are commissioned by local authorities for the full year have been commissioned already without payment of the living wage for sleepovers; in fact, some 60 per cent of local authorities that commission care services have not provided the living wage for sleepovers for the entirety of 2018-19.
I cannot believe that the cabinet secretary is content with that. Money that has been given to pay the living wage is not ending up in the pockets of hard-working care staff, where I know she wants it to be. We all want it to be there, and I cannot believe that the cabinet secretary is happy that it is not. Will she ensure—we will help her—that, for the remainder of this year, that money is paid so that the staff get their rightful pay? Will she guarantee now that the policy will be fully funded for 2019-20 and that all staff who do sleepovers will be paid the living wage?
It is 41 days away from Christmas, and the panto season is already upon us. Will Jeane Freeman be Santa or Scrooge? Social care workers are watching with interest. I hope that she is Santa.