Austerity-hit Kirk care sector to reduce counselling services

Rev Prof David Fergusson delivers the report on proposed changes to the Kirk's organisation. Picture: Andy O'Brien
Rev Prof David Fergusson delivers the report on proposed changes to the Kirk's organisation. Picture: Andy O'Brien
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Austerity is hitting Scotland’s care sector as never before, an expert in social care has warned the 2019 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Vivienne Dickenson, chief executive of CrossReach, the Kirk’s social care arm – Scotland’s biggest provider of care after local authorities – highlighted the funding crisis, the low status-low pay view of the sector, and the move to reduce its counselling services.

CrossReach currently receives 63 per cent of its funding from local authorities and 1.8 per cent from the Kirk.

Ms Dickenson was speaking on the 150th anniversary of CrossReach, which runs a host of projects ranging from care homes for the elderly, drug abuse rehabilitation centres, homeless projects and early years initiatives.

“Austerity is biting the whole country including local authorities. Where local authorities are facing austerity the challenges are passed on to the third sector.

“The country doesn’t put enough value on care staff skills. It is seen as work which is not highly valued, but it can be pretty stressful.”

Ms Dickenson said austerity policies were also leading to an increase in mental health issues but that her organisation was struggling to deal with demand.

“We’re seeing a growth in applications for counselling, especially mental health. People are talking more about mental health, anxiety, family, jobs and feeling insecure.”

She added that a planned reduction in Kirk funding, would impact on the counselling services offered by the project.

Bill Steele, convener of the Kirk’s Social Care Council, in his speech to the General Assembly, spoke of the “constant juggle to recruit, train and support the staff necessary to provide the high-quality care we aspire to deliver”.

Quoting from a report by the Fair Work Convention, Mr Steele said: “It states that ‘frontline workers feel respected for the work they do by their colleagues, those they care for, and their employers, but they do not feel particularly valued by the Scottish Government or the wider public’.”

Mr Steele added that while being involved in political discussions to resolve the crisis, CrossReach had also taken practical and innovative steps to manage budgets.

These include a partnership with the Princes Trust to train young people interested in making a career in caring.