UNISON, Scotland’s largest public service union, has hit out after an announcement by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) to hike registration fees. These will see annual fees rise by 66% for social care support workers and 75% for supervisors, with rises of up to 166% for the most qualified staff.
The union says the decision will come as a blow to workers and add further negativity to a sector already blighted by low-pay; insecure employment; unsafe staffing levels; and poor career development.
Stephen Smellie, UNISON Scotland Depute Convener and Chair of the Social Work Issues Group has set up a petition calling for the SSSC to rethink and is calling on all registered or soon to be registered workers to sign it. As a branch we are urging our social work and social care members to sign the petition.
The SSSC registers workers across social care services including: social workers; social service workers; those managing and working in children’s services; day care and residential care. The proposal for a rise in fees has been approved by the Scottish Government and will be applied in September.
Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair and member of UNISON Scotland’s Social Work Issues group said, “This is a slap in the face for hard-working social care and social work staff who are already facing a real-terms pay cut. An increase in fees is nothing more than a tax on compassion and we urge the SSSC to review their decision as a matter of urgency.
“Care could and should be a profession. We want a professional body with the standing and influence to recognise the value of care work and care workers – but this is not the case in Scotland.
“Our members have raised many concerns over the role of the SSSC which is seen as a way to ‘police’ the sector rather than offer support and development. So why would workers choose to endure low pay, unfair working practices and job insecurity and then have to pay for the privilege of being policed by the SSSC?
“A fee hike increases the negativity surrounding the sector and is a direct contradiction to the wider policy goal of promoting social services as a rewarding place to work.
“We made it very clear when this was first proposed that any increase in fees would hit the lowest paid workers hardest and have a detrimental impact on recruiting and retaining social care staff. The SSSC also suggest this is the first increase of many, which will only add to the negativity that surrounds employment in regulated care.”
Stephen Smellie added, “Like all public service staff, these workers are currently suffering a real-terms pay cut and while a registration fee of £25 may not seem a lot to some, for workers on the poverty line it is a significant sum of money.
“A rise in fees is just the tip of the iceberg for an industry that is already severely overstretched and underfunded and the damage to the sector caused by yet another hit on the incomes of low-paid staff will far outweigh the minimal gain on SSSC running costs.
A better way forward would be to waive the fee entirely for low-paid registrants until such time as low pay, discrimination and unfair work that blights the sector has been eradicated.”