Care workers’ pandemic experiences highlight the need for sector change

Section: In the CommunityType: News Item Date Published: 22nd December 2020
Illustration of a desk scene, with a laptop displaying the word 'report' on the screen

Scotland’s care sector needs a cultural overhaul to improve the quality of work and care, according to interviews with front-line workers.

Academics at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) have published a new report featuring the experiences of frontline care workers throughout the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland. According to interviews compiled in this new report from researchers, Scotland’s care sector needs a cultural overhaul to improve the quality of work and care.

Decent Work in Scotland’s Care Homes, funded by the British Academy’s COVID-19 Special Research Grant, reveals what care workers think about job quality in social care and what needs to be done to improve it in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers Dr Hartwig Pautz, Dr Stephen Gibb and Joan Riddell spent the summer interviewing care staff, predominantly from care homes, to find out more about their working lives. They were asked about the seven job quality factors which make work ‘decent’ under the International Labour Organisation’s definition: supportive managers; terms and conditions; a safe work environment; decent pay; job security; social recognition; and purpose and meaning.

Dr Pautz, Senior Lecturer in UWS’s School of Education and Social Sciences, said the interviews conducted over the summer offer a raw and uncut view of job quality and ‘decent work’ in the care sector. The workers highlighted that pre-existing issues and deficits in the sector were amplified during the pandemic.

Out of the seven job quality factors, workers felt that five areas had worsened following the outbreak of COVID-19. A safe work environment was a major cause for concern among those interviewed, with many reporting a lack of access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. In the view of care workers, the pandemic confirmed long-held beliefs that existing attitudes towards older people – attitudes characterised by ageism – translated directly into a lack of recognition for those who care for them.

The one area which improved was that of purpose and meaning, with the majority of workers saying that a sense of purpose and making a difference is what keeps them in the job.

The report itself contains some really powerful testimony from care workers, showing the challenges they face in their working lives. Find out more and read the full report on Decent Work in Social Care’s website (this link will take you away from our website).

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