By Bill Heaney
Jackie Baillie MSP has demanded that Huimza Yousaf, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, intervenes as social care staff face being priced out of their jobs due to the increase in fuel costs.
The Dumbarton constituency MSP held a meeting with a number of care workers recently to hear of their worries as their bills for fuel have risen exorbitantly.
The increased price of petrol and diesel has had a significant impact on the costs they incur just to do their jobs, visiting individual clients. Some report having to pay £200 more per month for fuel compared to their previous outgoings.
However the mileage they are able to claim has not risen in line with these enormous fuel increases.
Ms Baillie is worried that this will end up directly impacting the number of social care workers in the area at a time when there is already a shortage. She has written to the Cabinet Secretary as social care workers in the private sector are often delivering public sector contracts.
She said: “Through my conversations with the social care workers, it is clear that they all love their job and feel as though they are providing a vital service to vulnerable members of the community. I couldn’t agree more with this.
Putting a tiger in your tank takes the lion’s share of carers’ wages, MSP tells Yousaf.
“Social care staff have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic and deserved all the applause which was given as we took to our doorsteps on a Thursday night, during the pandemic.
“However we know they don’t get paid enough which is why Scottish Labour has been pushing for £15 per hour for our care workers. Now they are facing huge bills just to visit their clients to provide care for them. This is not on and needs to be addressed immediately.
“The Cabinet Secretary needs to step in to ensure these hard-working staff, most of whom are women, are properly compensated for the work and the mileage they do before we have an even bigger social care crisis on our hands as these workers leave for other jobs.”
One carer told Ms Baillie: “I work for the private sector in Helensburgh. I have noticed over the past couple of weeks, I am putting more and more in and basically getting nothing back for it.
“Before the prices were rising, I was spending £42 on a tank, now it’s more like £150 a week. I have tried to speak to my employer but they have said they are not putting the mileage up. We get 25p a mile. Last month, in my wages I got back £137. Sometimes it is a 60-mile round trip to see a client.
“It’s getting to the stage where I am thinking, ‘can I actually afford to work’?”
Another carer who has been working with the private sector for the last year said: “I have started to notice in the last few weeks the prices going up. It has got really bad. Every time you fill the car, it’s costing you more.
“When the car got to half a tank before, it would cost £40, now it’s £50. When you are filling that up two or three times a week, it does add up. I love my job but you do get to the point where you think ‘is it worth it?’ When you take into account breaks and lunch, it’s costing me about £15 a day just to go to work.”
A third carer who has been working with the same private company for five years said: “Before, I was using about £60 a month but since the rise in petrol costs, I am well over £100. It’s incredible. I haven’t been using my car for my own personal use just to keep prices down.
“I understand we have to make sure we get ourselves to work but then there is the extra running about. I love the job. It’s a great job.
“It’s really rewarding especially when you are going to visit people who are lonely and you are their only contact with the outside world. It’s phenomenal.
“You want to help, you want to make a difference but we are understaffed and 25p a mile doesn’t really cut it. I used to be able to put a couple of quid back into my savings a month for a rainy day but I can’t do that anymore. You get your wages, pay your bills and there’s nothing really left over and above that.”