The Auditor General for Scotland has warned there are “huge challenges facing the sustainability of social care” and reform “cannot wait” for the Government to set up its National Care Service.
Problems include rising demand for social care and the “fragility” of the workforce, which is often undervalued and underpaid, according to the stark report.
The joint briefing from Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission states: “The 209,690 people working in social care are under immense pressure, and the sector faces ongoing challenges with recruitment and retention.
“Staff are not adequately valued, engaged or rewarded for their vitally important role.
“The workforce is predominantly female and poor terms and conditions for staff contribute to recruitment difficulties, rising sickness absence and high vacancy levels.
“This puts the capacity, sustainability, and quality of care services at a considerable risk.”
Despite £5.3 billion being spent on Scottish social care annually, including £4.08bn on adult social care and £993 million for children and families, there is a “focus on cost rather than quality or outcomes”, the report adds.
Furthermore, it expresses concern carers and the people receiving support do not always have a say in what help they receive and the Scottish Government should listen to their experiences. Auditor General Stephen Boyle, who will give evidence to a Holyrood committee today, said: “We cannot wait another five years until the planned National Care Service is in place.
“Action must happen now, and at speed, by the Scottish Government.”
William Moyes, chairman of the Accounts Commission, added: “There are significant problems with the delivery of social care services.
“These services are vital, yet we have a workforce that’s not adequately valued or regarded.”
Social care minister Kevin Stewart said: “We are committed to delivering a National Care Service by the end of this Parliament in order to ensure everyone gets the high-quality care they are entitled to, regardless of where they live in Scotland.
“As part of this we are already considering many of the issues raised by Audit Scotland, including staff recruitment and retention, the need for a greater emphasis on preventative care and meeting individual needs, a focus on ethical commissioning and ensuring the voices of people who are receiving care services are amplified.”