Kirk: Our carers would earn more stacking shelves

A GOOD number of the Kirk’s 2,000 care staff could earn more “stacking shelves in Tesco”, the convener of the Kirk’s social care council admitted today.

The General Assembly heard external constraints prevented CrossReach from paying all its care staff the Living Wage. Picture: Andrew OBrien

Sally Bonnar, speaking at the General Assembly in Edinburgh, said that, while the Kirk is moving towards paying the Living Wage to all its carers, its hands were tied by the level of local authority funding it receives.

The Kirk, whose social care arm, CrossReach, is one of the biggest social care provider in Scotland with around 2,000 employees, receives 70 per cent of its funding from local authorities and health board contracts.

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The aim is to all pay carers the Living Wage – £7.85 an hour – was discussed by the Kirk in 2012.

General Assembly of The Church of Scotland in Edinburgh is aiming to pay all carers £7.85 per hour as discussed by the Kirk in 2012. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

The Living Wage is a voluntary code slightly above the national minimum wage for adults which is set to rise by 20p in October to £6.70 an hour.

However, despite implementing a range of cutbacks, the Kirk said it was still unable to implement this across the board due to lack of adequate funding and cuts in public spending.

Ms Bonnar said that some staff would see an increase in their pay packets in the autumn due to a funding increase from the Scottish Government, local authorities and its own Council of Assembly, which has increased its mission and renewal allocation.

“We are happy to report that the outcome of this tripartite increase in funding is that from 1 October, CrossReach will be in a position to pay a minimum of £7 per hour per week to all staff.

“This will be the rate for ancillary staff, with care and support workers receiving the current Scottish Living wage of £7.85.

“The differential payments for employees between these two groups will also increase.

“This is to be celebrated, and we are grateful to the church for their part in this achievement, but we are not complacent and recognise that there is still some way to go before all staff are paid the living wage.”

Ms Bonnar added: “The staff do a very difficult and challenging job, whether they are working with the elderly or in a more isolated way in the community.

“Many could earn more stacking shelves in Tesco.

“But many of the people do the job not because of money, they do it because they enjoy it, they want to give something back to the community, or have had someone [in a care home] in a similar situation.”

Dave Watson, Scottish organiser for the Unite union, said: “We very much welcome the Church of Scotland’s stance on working towards paying the ­Living Wage.

“We do accept there is an issue about government and local authority funding which needs to be higher.

“Paying the Living Wage means businesses hang on to their staff, do not have to pay to advertise and retrain new people. It is also vital to think about the people being cared for – staff being overstretched means they are essentially running around not having enough time to care.

“This is pretty tough on everyone and says much more about the value we as a society place on social care.”

CrossReach is built on the Kirk’s tradition of providing care and support which dates back to 1869. Its 70 services include caring for older people, children and families, learning disabilities, mental health, criminal justice and substance misuse.