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Community / New pay structure for care staff reducing need for agency workers, SIC chief says

A DECISION to increase pay for care workers in Shetland is already helping the council recruit staff and rely less on bringing in agency workers, according to chief executive Maggie Sandison.

She told a meeting of the full council on Wednesday that it was in effect a “spend to save”.

Sandison used the example of the North Isles where she said the council has filled vacancies and does not need temporary agency workers.

There was, however, concern from some councillors over an increased spend of more than £4 million which was approved for Shetland’s  integration joint board, which oversees health and social care.

This was to cover increased costs for community health and social care through the 2023/24 financial year.

The meeting heard that this included “significant” pay increases, agency costs and more self-directed support packages.

The approved additional payment was £4.264 million, increasing the SIC’s overall budgeted contribution to the IJB to around £36.3 million. NHS Shetland also contributes to its budget.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

Development committee chair Dennis Leask said it was an “exceptionally” high rise for the council to pay.

Sandison explained that local authorities are not allowed to reduce their IJB budgets year on year.

She added that with an ageing population there will be increased demand, and higher costs.

But the chief executive highlighted that the new pay and grading structure for care staff approved late last year, to recognise how roles have changed, is already having an impact in lowering the reliance on more expensive agency workers.

IJB vice-chair John Fraser said he shared concerns about the increased payment to the board, but reminded elected members that there is a “human element” at play.

“These people receive the care because they need the care,” the Lerwick South councillor said.

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“If we endeavour to reduce the cost of that care, we diminish that care. And as a result of diminishing that care, we diminish that quality of life.”

Fraser highlighted that there are some projects ongoing within the IJB, such a report on self-directed support expected in the coming months.

Council leader Emma Macdonald said any changes would not happen overnight – but she also stressed the human element of services the IJB oversees.

“What we can’t lose sight of is what local government is here to do – and that’s to provide services to people,” she said.

“We don’t need a cost benefit analysis to tell us that people should be our priority.”

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