THE Scottish Personal Assistant Employers Network (SPAEN) has welcomed the First Minister’s announcement for ‘Fair Work First’.
Speaking immediately after the announcement at the Scottish National Party conference in Glasgow today, SPAEN CEO, Colin Millar (pictured), supported the First Minister’s pledge by announcing that the charity will be launching a ‘Scottish Living Wage Pledge’ for employers of personal assistants.
Personal assistants, or PAs as they are known in the social care sector, are employed directly by people with disabilities, impairments or long-term health conditions, who have elected to receive a Direct Payment under the Self-Directed Support system rather than receiving more traditional care services from a care agency or local authority.
Speaking about the new pledge, Colin stated: “The Scottish Government has been leading the way in terms of providing a living wage in Scotland and their pledge to deliver this for the social care sector was extended to PAs last year.
“As PAs are employed directly by the people they’re supporting and are not regulated by any governing body, they are often forgotten about when it comes to such commitments. They don’t always have someone speaking up for their needs or rights and it is left with their employers, disabled people trying to maintain a semblance of ‘normal life’ within their homes and communities, to ensure their working conditions are compliant and their rights upheld.
“PA employers are not permitted to become Scottish Living Wage accredited whilst this is an avenue open to other types of employers. We felt that was unfair so we’re moving to remedy that.
PA employers often provide the very best of employment terms to their PAs and they should be recognised for this.
“SPAEN’s new Pledge will allow PA employers from across Scotland to demonstrate their commitment to paying the Scottish Living Wage, providing compliant and fair work and to recruit the very best care workers just like other private or independent social care companies in Scotland.”
The pledge will be hosted on SPAEN’s website and will be open to any person who employs their own personal assistant. SPAEN will ensure people wishing to record their commitment to the pledge can demonstrate that they have been meeting at least the Scottish Living Wage and continue to do so as it increases each year.
There are currently around 5,000 PA employers in Scotland and it is estimated the PA workforce is between 1,000 and 1,500 and growing.
It is recognised that recruiting social care workers in Scotland is already extremely difficult and the threat of Brexit and migration caps for ‘low skilled workers’ is likely to further affect the availability of workers taking up social care roles across the sector.
SPAEN hopes that by allowing and recognising PA employers as ‘good, competent and compliant’ employers who have committed to paying the Scottish Living Wage, people will be encouraged to apply for support roles outside care agencies and improve the number of potential PA’s in Scotland.
Millar added: “When the Pension Auto-Enrolment legislation came in, we were the first to approach the Scottish Government and CoSLA to ensure that Direct Payment recipients were being supported to meet not only the legislative requirements but were able to offer pensions to their staffs.
“When a workforce is so in demand, as it is in the social care sector in Scotland, sometimes it comes down to what additional supports and benefits an employer can offer.
“Making sure that PA employers can and do offer pensions; Scottish Living Wage rates and other employment benefits can be the difference between finding someone who can help you maintain your independence in your community or have to move into care wherever there is availability.”
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