Social Care Services (Glasgow)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 30th September 2021.

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Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

6. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to reports that social care services in Glasgow have been temporarily suspended because of staff shortages. (S6F-00304)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

All of us understand how vital those services are to many people, and I understand the concern that any changes to the operation of such services brings.

The Glasgow health and social care partnership has sought to assure the Government that the suspension of services is temporary. The situation will be regularly reviewed and services will be reinstated as quickly as possible.

We have been working, and we will continue to work, closely with all local areas, including Glasgow, to ensure that services are delivered safely. That has included introducing measures to address recruitment and retention issues, such as working with the Scottish Social Services Council and key partners to promote opportunities and encourage take-up of vacant posts, which includes work on training and developing the workforce. In addition, we are running a campaign to attract more people to the sector, and we are accelerating routes into the sector in recruitment processes.

Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

I thank the First Minister for that answer, but people who require care will probably find little comfort in it. Last week, Glasgow City Council took the operational decision to suspend day-care services on the basis of mounting staffing pressures in what has been described as a “critical shortage” of care workers—a shortage that I, as a care user, am acutely aware of.

Does the First Minister accept that there is a crisis in social care recruitment and that her Government’s continued year-on-year underfunding of local authorities and social care has impacted on vacancies and the pay that is available? How many vacancies are there currently in social care in Scotland, and will the Government commit to publishing that information? What action is the Government taking to tackle the crisis, including the grossly unfair low pay in the sector?

The First Minister:

There were a number of perfectly reasonable questions there.

Obviously, local authorities generally are the employers of social care workers, so the data is likely to be held mainly by local authorities, but I will undertake to look at whether we can publish the kind of information that Pam Duncan-Glancy is asking for, so that we have greater understanding and transparency around the level of vacancies.

I absolutely agree that—notwithstanding my previous answer or, probably, this answer—the temporary suspension of services will be of profound concern to everybody who is affected by it, and everybody wants to see those services reinstated as quickly as possible.

We will continue to have debates in the chamber about funding. We are increasing funding to social care, and it is important that we do that. There is a recognised need to drive up the pay and conditions of the social care workforce. That is part of our national care service proposal, but the issue needs to be progressed in the lead-up to the delivery of that proposal. I take all of this very seriously.

I do not want to get back into the exchanges about Brexit that we had earlier, but I will say that we face a shortage of labour in this country that is affecting haulage companies—as we can see right now—and many aspects of the private sector. We all have to recognise that it is affecting our health and care sector, too, and that is likely to be exacerbated in the coming period. Yesterday, the health secretary and I discussed the issue with officials, and we have a number of plans in progress to try to increase recruitment into social care. We will do everything that we can to do that. It is one of the impacts of decisions that have been taken over recent years that will cause difficulty for us in the coming months. We all have to recognise that and resolve to do everything that we can to overcome it.