Sandesh Gulhane: ‘Why work in social care when Asda will pay for a degree?’

A Tory politician has questioned why young Scots would want to work in social care when they could stack shelves in Asda for a higher hourly rate and “get paid to do a degree”.

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, Conservative MSP for Glasgow, said he was drawn to medicine because of the job satisfaction it offered but said that wouldn’t be enough to attract people to a “challenging” role where pay rates and career progression are poor.

The GMB has called for a £15 an hour minimum for carers and appropriate increases for other roles, saying the planned rise to £10.50 will not go far enough in retaining existing staff in the face of soaring inflation and energy bills.

A recent report by Audit Scotland found three-quarters of social care staff have left a job within three months of starting it.

READ MORE: Staff and cash ‘crisis’ push social care to brink of collapse

Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, criticised “unhelpful”comments made by Home Secretary Priti Patel where she described care as a “low 
skilled” job.

Dr Gulhane said: “Why should a teenager go into care when it’s as challenging as

Donald (Dr Macaskill) says it is if they can go to Aldi and earn £10.10 an hour?

“You are earning far less to do a more challenging job in social care. 

“I could go to work in Asda and get similar pay to start with but there is the opportunity to get a degree… and lots of people have done this. You start off stacking shelves and you end up as a senior manager earning hundreds of thousands of pounds.


“I’m a doctor because of the rewarding nature of the job but I’m not sure that’s enough when you are talking about people going into care.

“We need to not only reward them but give them some sort of career. 
“I go back to my point about Asda where they pay for you to have a degree while you are working.

“We need to have this clear career progression.”

READ MORE: ‘No one should be forced to sell their home to pay for care’ providers tell Scottish Government

Responding to the politician, Annie Gunner Logan, chief executive of the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland, said she largely agreed with his comments but said it was important to recognise the contribution of older workers.

“This is not only about teenagers and young people,” she said.

“We need to make sure we don’t dismiss the older workforce too and they might not be looking for that kind of opportunity to do a degree.

“The difference between stacking shelves and working as a social care worker is like night and day because of the rewards, the fulfilment, the sense of purpose.

“But if you are a young person looking to pay your bills, there’s no question that in the short term you are going to get paid more elsewhere.”

She said during a meeting of the Health and Sport Committee that it was important to recognise recent pay uplifts by the Scottish Government but said it only addressed those on the lowest pay level.

“The way that pay uplifts have been implemented is in my view setting up problems further down the line because all it focuses on is pay at the lowest level. It doesn’t take into account differentials and career progression.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour question government’s £700k outsourcing of care

“And when we look at the pay uplift that’s coming up in April, there seems to be a question mark over whether the increase in national insurance contributions are going to be funded. We are in a very difficult place around that.

Dr Macaskill said poor perceptions of the job were partly to blame for recruitment issues.

He said: “We saw that throughout the pandemic. It took eight weeks before we started to clap, not just for the NHS but for carers. It took weeks before supermarkets started to recognise social care staff as being just as significant as NHS staff and give them priority.

“People underestimate just how challenging the role of care is. 

“It is a highly technical, skilled professional job. It’s not helped by politicians like the Home Secretary describing it as low skilled.

“This is not a low skilled job and I suspect that we know that some people are attracted because they think it’s easy.

“It’s demanding physically, it’s demanding emotionally and psychologically. People apply and the reality of the demands as well as the rewards take some time.”

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