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Unqualified staff asked to become carers by ‘desperate’ Scottish council

A council has been branded “desperate” for asking unqualified staff if they would like to earn more money working in social care.

South Lanarkshire said no previous experience would be required in a vital service used by vulnerable people.

Monica Lennon, a Labour MSP for Central Scotland, blasted: “Elderly and disabled residents who rely on social care already fear a revolving door of complete strangers this winter.

“Many will be extremely worried that South Lanarkshire Council is urging its office staff to double-up as supply carers for extra Christmas cash.”

Councils across Scotland are facing huge pressure in the staffing of social care, an area marked by low pay.

In an all-staff email last week, which is believed to have reached around 13,000 people, South Lanarkshire Council tried to enlist the support of non-care staff.

The email stated: “Would you like to support our most vulnerable citizens, earn extra salary and learn new skills which could even lead you to a different and exciting career?

“We are looking for existing employees who would also be keen to work on a supply basis in Health and Social Care – this could be within Care at Home, Residential or Day Care Services. You might agree to work a few hours a week, a day a month, or as and when you are available.”

It continued: “Our main priority is to find people with the right attitude and behaviours. You don’t need to have previous experience in this field, and you don’t need qualifications to get started – we’re happy to work with you to help you become an excellent care worker.”

The email said the next step would be for interested parties to complete a “very short application”.

The council said anyone hired would receive training, but the email has alarmed critics.

GMB Scotland Secretary Louise Gilmour, whose trade union represents social care staff, said: “This is another example of what the understaffing crisis in our social care sector looks like.

“Sticking plaster approaches won’t work, they risk turning a crisis into a catastrophe.

“If Ministers want to start solving the crisis in care then they need to properly value this increasingly complex and skilled work.

“That‘s why GMB members are campaigning for a £15 an hour social care minimum wage.”

Lennon added: “Health and social care in Lanarkshire has been brought to its knees and the crisis is growing by the day because Scottish ministers dropped the ball long ago.

“We have a Code Black situation in NHS Lanarkshire and constituents are describing a complete collapse in social care.

“This desperate move by South Lanarkshire Council is well-intentioned but a lot could go wrong.

“While there may be lots of suitable employees who can assist with personal care duties, such as helping to bathe and dress people and assisting with meals and medication, service users want to know what vetting and training will be done and how will the spread of Covid be minimised?”

A council spokesman said: “We absolutely stand by the decision to ask our hardworking, dedicated and professional staff if they would be interested in taking on new roles in delivering social care. As is well-known, there is a real need for more people to work in this vital sector, and it is a sensible and pragmatic move to turn to people we know and value in order to meet that need as we approach the winter period.

“The intention is to build up a bank of workers who are willing, after they have been fully trained, to be deployed as additional hours to their substantive roles to support the work of our Health and Social Care Partnership.

“We hope that many staff will see this as an opportunity to move into a new career in which they will be able to help others and get great job satisfaction. Of course anyone who comes forward will be fully trained before they work with service users. Any suggestion otherwise is ill informed and irresponsible.

“Frankly, anyone who criticises this move must not understand the need for more workers in social care, and they also seriously underestimate the ability of our valued workforce to develop their skills.”

Adam Stachura, Head of Policy and Communications at Age Scotland, said: “There is no doubt that social care staffing is under the most severe pressure right now, particularly in the Lanarkshire health board area.

“At such a critical time heading into winter it is vital that there are more than enough staff to deliver the high-quality care our older people deserve but ensuring that staff are well trained to do such an important job is paramount.

“If South Lanarkshire Council are encouraging their staff to support social care, then the right training should be completed from the offset. Unless that happens the quality of care will suffer.”

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