Scotland could see a “huge number” of care homes close unless additional cash is made available to fund them and increase workers’ pay to a minimum of £12 an hour, sector leaders have warned.
First Minister Humza Yousaf has already pledged to increases wages in the sector to this level, but said the Scottish Government cannot “afford to do this absolutely immediately”.
With no timetable announced for the pay rise, Scottish Care – which represents independent care homes across the country – said “targeted action” is now needed from the Government as it warned: “There is a real urgency to save Scotland’s care homes.”
Scottish Care has been in talks with local government leaders on the money made available for the 70% of care home residents who receive state funding.
The funding currently provided in the National Care Home Contract (NCHC) amounts to “less than £5 per hour for complex care and support”, it said.
Councils have offered a 6% increase, but Scottish Care said this would “not pay frontline workers the £12 an hour they deserve and address the critical energy and other cost issues”.
If the deal currently on the table from local government body Cosla is accepted, Scottish Care warned it would “inevitably lead to a huge number of homes closing their doors, with all the devastation that brings to vulnerable older residents and loss of employment for staff”.
Care homes are facing “immense and unique challenges at the present time”, Scottish Care said, claiming the latest NHS pay deal had made it “significantly harder” for homes to recruit staff as they can earn 19% more doing a similar role within the health service.
Meanwhile it said some homes have seen energy bills rise by as much as 500%.
“Faced with these significant pressures, we have sadly witnessed the largest number of care home closures the sector has experienced in the last few months and the very real fear is that this will escalate at speed,” Scottish Care said.
“We recognise the stated commitment of Scottish Government, but we now need targeted action.”
The organisation said it has been asked to speak out by care home members “to raise awareness of the urgency of these discussions and the importance of intervention by the Scottish Government”.
It warned that if the NCHC cannot be maintained, it will “result in the closure of many more care homes across the country, most especially in rural and remote communities”.
Paul Kelly, Cosla’s health and social care spokesman, said councils have put forward the “highest ever proposed increase to the National Care Home Contract”, adding this is “the best offer we can make and is at the limits of affordability”.
Mr Kelly said while council budgets have been “under severe pressure in recent years”, the offer “sought to recognise the essential and invaluable role of care homes and their staff within our communities”.
However he said it is “inevitably shaped by the severe financial and inflationary pressures we collectively face”.
Mr Kelly added: “We understand that as part of Scottish Care’s rejection of this offer there was direct engagement with Scottish Government in relation to the financial challenges across the sector.
“Meanwhile, councils have continued to ensure payments are timeously made to care home providers, including to enable adult social care workers to receive the real living wage. The full offer remains on the table.”
Social care minister Maree Todd said: “Pay and conditions play an important role in the wellbeing and retention of our social care workforce, and we are committed to improvement. Over the last couple of years we have increased the pay for social care workers by more than 14%.
“We are committed to improving social care services and know well the workforce challenges that the adult social care sector in particular faces. While we are not able to afford to do this immediately, we have committed to a timetable that sets out how this Government will get to £12 an hour for adult social care workers.
“We are looking at how we can plan for, attract, train, employ and nurture the workforce, working with Cosla to deliver consistency of improved pay and conditions and improving access to training and development to ensure a career in social care is attractive and rewarding.
“The Scottish Government is disappointed the negotiations for the National Care Home Contract between Cosla and Scottish Care have not been able to reach resolution. We hope that appropriate arrangements can be agreed and put in place as soon as possible.”
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