Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Relatives offer higher wages due to care workers shortage

Michael Turnbull with his wife, Mary
Image caption Michael Turnbull cares for his wife, Mary, who has dementia

A shortage of care workers in Scotland is leading to relatives offering extra wages in a bid to secure support.

The problem has been highlighted by a couple from East Lothian.

Michael Turnbull was told by 16 providers they had no spare capacity to help with care for his wife Mary who has dementia. Separately, he offered extra money for private personal care but still could not get what he needed.

The Scottish government is to discuss the case with East Lothian Council.

The local authority, which gave Mr Turnbull funding to pay for care for his wife, said it was working with him to find a long-term solution.

Mr Turnbull, 76, from Longniddry, told BBC Scotland he had offered additional wages for private personal care for his wife but still struggled to find the support he required.

"I've just noticed that the companies don't have any spare staff," he said.

"One particular company withdrew from us because two of their care workers went off on long-term sick leave and it was impossible for them to fulfil a contract.

"It became clear to me more recently that this is something that is happening all over Scotland and in fact all over Britain."

Image caption Dr Donald MasAskill said the problem was widespread

Dr Donald MasAskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, the umbrella body which represents the independent care sector, said: "Unfortunately the problem is really widespread and its becoming even more common.

"We did a survey last month of our members and nine out of 10 of them have struggled to fill support worker vacancies in the last year.

"The same number, nine out of 10, say the situation is worse this year than it was last year, despite the fact we are now able to pay people the Scottish living wage.

"The job of care is a hugely rewarding and fulfilling job but it is also a really challenging and difficult job.

"It costs people emotionally and physically and so often people start the job but sometimes the cost and stress become really challenging."

'Raising the status'

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "I am sorry to hear of the problems Mr Turnbull has been experiencing finding care for his wife.

"Scottish government officials will be contacting the local authority to discuss this case.

"Attracting and retaining the right people, and raising the status and image of social care as a profession, is key to delivering quality care.

"That is why we have taken action to protect our social care services, including the payment of the Living Wage to adult care workers, giving a well-deserved pay rise to up to 40,000 people doing some of the most valuable work in Scotland."

She added: "In the coming year there will be almost half a billion pounds of NHS investment in social care and integration.

"We are working with Cosla and care providers to deliver a major programme of reform to adult social care, which will consider workforce issues and new models of care and support."

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