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Nicola Sturgeons offer of 40p per hour pay increase for Scotland’s care workers is derisory

Updated: May 10, 2023

I sometimes wonder if politicians in the UK live on the same planet as the rest of us. At a time when nurses are going on strike because they cannot afford to live on £30,000 per year and some are said to be using food banks. The Scottish First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) has offered a pay rise for care workers to £10.90 an hour.

Where is the logic in that.

Criticism of Sturgeon

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar criticised Sturgeon for lowballing the care sector.

He advised that floods of care staff are leaving the sector for better paid, less stressful positions at the likes of Sainsbury’s, Costa and Lidl.

Sarwar wrote in a Tweet showing a video of the exchange in the Scottish Parliament: “40p more in the midst of a cost of living crisis is an insult to care workers who risked their lives to get us through the pandemic.”

He said at Holyrood: “We heard that staff are leaving to work in Sainsbury’s, Costa and Lidl because they are getting better pay and conditions.

“Will the First Minister finally commit to an immediate pay increase to £12 an hour, rising to £15 an hour, for social care workers across Scotland?”

Sturgeon responded: “I want us to go further but we have to be able to fund that. To increase pay to £15 per hour for all social care workers, as Labour is asking, would cost upwards of an additional £1.75 billion.

“Labour hasn’t set out how they would fund that or what they would have to cut as a consequence. We want to see pay increase further, but we have to do that in a properly funded way. That is responsible government.”

Professionalism for social care workers

You will note that nurses pay refers to the amount earned in a year while care workers’ focuses on an hourly rate. To those who have been banging on the drum (including myself) to raise the professional recognition of care workers this is an anathema.

Ministers across the UK now appear to recognise the importance of the social care sector. The recent bed blocking crises has shown how much the NHS is dependant on social care to enable it to function efficiently. We talk blithely of an integrated care service, but for this to work we need the professional contribution of social care workers.

What we need is not only a professional salary built on recognisable qualifications provided by reputable colleges that are recognised by employers and the NHS.


Nicola Sturgeon’s offer of 40p per hour pay increase for Scotland’s social care workers says much about how care workers are valued in Scotland. Suffice to say that the situation is the same across the United Kingdom.

When politicians talk about pay, they refer to nurses’ salaries and care workers hourly rates. Why can’t we have salaries for full time care workers based upon recognised qualifications?

If we are to stop the drain of social care workers to the retail sector, we obviously need to pay them more money. But if we are to retain and recruit more social care workers in the future, it will take more than money. The government along with the social care industry needs to carry out a plan to raise the professional recognition of social care workers.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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