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Fair Care for Scotland

We believe Scotland’s social care system requires a root and branch reform. Both social care service users and care workers have been let down by successive Scottish Governments.

Social care workers provide essential care and support in communities and residential homes across Scotland. Their work is challenging, underpaid and undervalued and the sector struggles to recruit and retain workers. Care service delivery is fragmented, and all too often delivered by private providers who prioritise profit over quality of care. 

Trade unions, service user groups and employers agree that Scotland’s social care sector faces an escalating crisis. As demand for care increases and local authority budgets are cut there is an urgent need for funding to ensure fair pay and decent terms and conditions for social care staff.

To address the core issue and create a truly transformative National Care Service, it must be based on public ownership and control with not-for-profit service delivery.

The majority of residential care in Scotland is provided by for profit enterprises, often owned by private equity firms whose ultimate ownership lies in tax havens. There are numerous examples of private providers terminating contracts with local authorities, either by choice or following the collapse of the company. This results in overstretched local authorities attempting to cover gaps in care provision, leaving workers at risk of redundancy and the system failing to meet the needs of care service users. Scotland can neither afford nor tolerate the social care investment lost to the opaque and complex corporate structures of many private providers.

STUC Care Workers Weekend School Group

Our research “Profiting from Care: Why Scotland Can’t Afford Privatised Social Care”, evidenced:

  • In older people’s care homes, staffing resources are 20% worse in the private sector compared to the not for profit sector.
  • Over the last six years, the public sector has paid on average £1.60 more per hour to care workers than the private sector.
  • £28 of every £100 received in care home fees leaks out of the most profitable privately owned care homes in the form of profits, rent, payments to directors and interest payments on loans. While not all of this extraction is illegitimate, it compares to only £3.43 of every £100 for the largest not-for-profit care home operators.
  • A growing concentration of residential care provided by large for-profit companies leaves care residents and workers at the mercy of market failure.

What do we want?

Social care functions on the dedication and commitment of care workers. We demand an end to low pay and poor terms and conditions. This can’t wait on a National Care Service, we need the Scottish government, local authorities and employers to deliver:

  • mandatory minimum wage of £15 per hour for carers and significant increase for other care staff such as domestics
  • pay parity with the NHS across the whole wage structure
  • collective sectoral bargaining, starting with trade union recognition, to ensure workers are represented effectively
  • improved employment contracts and terms and conditions to provide full sick pay from day, paid rest breaks and increased mileage allowance
  • an end to zero hours and precarious contracts to provide wage and job security
  • development of a national workforce plan to provide enhanced training and career progression opportunities

Collective action – a powerful voice for care workers

We support social care unions - UNISON, GMB and UNITE – to bring workers and trade union representatives together to identify common issues and develop campaigns to make real change in social care. We have held two successful joint care sector union campaigning schools.


Missing Millions

Scottish Government have pulled back from their commitment to fund contractual benefits for care sector workers. Over £38 million was allocated to cover maternity, paternity and sick pay costs which has now been withdrawn.

On the 25th April 2024 UNISON, GMB and UNITE held a demo at the Scottish Parliament to lobby politicians and demand the return of the Missing Millions.

Download the Missing Millions flyer here.

Sign the letter to Neil Gray MSP, Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care on Megaphone here. 


Read our research report, Profiting From Care: Why Scotland Can't Afford Privatised Social Care, here.

Read our briefing for MSP's for the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill Stage 1 Debate here

The Scottish Government carried out a series of engagements with stakeholders during the co-design period of the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill. Read our briefing for MSPs that outlines our proposals for a National Care Service here.