Scotland launches drive to boost voluntary sector skills

A service to develop the skills and qualifications of 36,000
staff at social care voluntary organisations in Scotland has been

The Voluntary Sector Social Services Workforce Unit will provide
support and advice on workforce planning, training, recruitment and
retention. It will liaise with employers, engage with policymakers
and promote best practice.

The unit, which the Scottish executive is funding to the tune of
£650,000 over three years, is a collaboration between
Community Care Providers Scotland and the Scottish Social Services
Council (SSSC).

Janet Miller, unit director and former learning and development
adviser at the SSSC, hopes to raise the sector’s status.

She says: “We want to emphasise that the voluntary sector – which
accounts for one-third of the social care workforce – wants to be
seen as true partners in delivering services. We want to get more
funding which can be put into improving salaries and

The unit employs three people and will focus initially on
developing the skills of front-line care workers and the capacity
of small and medium-sized social care voluntary groups.

Miller says: “There is a shortage of front-line care workers in all
sorts of settings but they are under-qualified. More training would
help them improve their practice and learning.

“It’s not that small organisations haven’t had a voice, but the big
ones shout loudest. Smaller employers provide half of voluntary
sector services but their funding is often insecure and they don’t
always know what’s out there in terms of support.”

The unit also aims to disseminate best practice information on
training and help employers navigate the maze of regulations on
qualification targets. It will explain in “easily understandable
language” to workers and employers the minimum standards they need
to register with the SSSC.

Staff recruitment and retention and making the sector a more
attractive career option for men – about 90 per cent of the
workforce is women – will also be challenges, says Miller.

“We have to sell our strengths. It is difficult to attract people
in the first place and, although the pay isn’t always the best, it
is a creative, exciting and flexible place to work,” she

With councils committed to developing closer partnerships with the
voluntary and private sectors in delivering services, Miller hopes
they will take the same broad approach when developing the skills
of the whole workforce.

  • More information on the Voluntary Sector Social Services
    Workforce Unit at www.

What are the unit’s main challenges?
Gordon MacRae, campaigns and quality officer at
disability charity Leonard Cheshire Scotland, hopes the Voluntary
Sector Social Services Workforce Unit will usher in consistency and

He says: “The sector needs to have a greater input into the
development of proper qualifications and ensure they incorporate
all the necessary skills and have the support of the

He adds that employees continually needed to reskill because there
were continual changes in qualification requirements and basic
standards. “We were told five years ago that higher national
certificates were the basic standard but that changed to the
Scottish vocational qualification, which meant our training had to

He says the unit needed to provide a “collective and strong voice”
on the value of voluntary sector careers and help build sector

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