Scottish Labour and the GMB union are both warning of a crisis in social care in the wake of a decision by HC-One to sell 5 per cent of its 54 Scottish care homes, which employ 750 people, with fears raised they could close permanently if no other care provider buyer is found.
Jackie Baillie, Labour’s health and social care spokeswoman, said it was time for a National Care Service that would “put people ahead of profit” and said the precarious nature of the social care system was unsustainable.
She said the SNP Government had taken up Labour’s proposed National Care Service, but that it had to be introduced “swiftly”. Ms Baillie said the government should pledge to increase the pay of all social care workers to £15 an hour, starting with an immediate increase in pay to £12 an hour.
“We must ensure that the highest levels of care are provided to guarantee the wellbeing of residents, and that staff are valued for their work,” she said. “When private care homes are put for sale, it can take months to find new buyers, leaving hundreds of jobs at risk.
“Now is the time for a National Care Service that puts people ahead of profit and offers our care workforce the £15-an-hour pay they deserve, and the SNP Government should deliver this in this week’s budget.”
Ms Baillie’s colleague, Highland and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant, has already asked the government to step in and take over the HC-One homes.
“This would show real commitment from the Scottish Government to meet the promise it made in its Programme for Government to support Scottish Labour’s visionary plan for a National Care Service,” she said.
GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith said the firm was “demonstrating everything that is wrong with our broken model of care and the private provision of residential care”.
He said: “The directors and spaghetti bowl of interest groups behind HC-One will not suffer here. The uncertainty will only affect exhausted key workers, vulnerable services users and worried families. This is added emotional punishment after a horrific year.
“It’s why we need to move at pace over the implementation of the Independent Adult Social Care Review recommendations for a National Care Service, so we can start to address the crises in our social care sector which Covid-19 has exposed.”
A spokesman for HC-one has said its priority was “residents, their loved ones and our colleagues” and they would be told which ten homes were to be sold off first.
"We are still in the process of informing them which is why we are currently unable to confirm the list of homes. We are working to ensure that this process continues with the minimum disruption to residents and colleagues as possible, and as such we will be able to confirm once we have spoken to them.”