Voluntary sector in Scotland losing out to councils on pay

Scottish charities will have to sell the wider benefits of being
a voluntary sector social worker because they cannot compete with
salaries paid by local authorities, experts say.

The warning comes as voluntary groups report it is becoming more
difficult for them to recruit social workers, particularly those
with experience, because of competition from some councils that are
offering improved terms and conditions.

The disparity between the two sectors’ pay scales is dramatic
(see box). A senior social worker or care manager at a voluntary
organisation is likely to earn much the same as a newly qualified
one in a local authority.

Faced with high job vacancy rates, particularly in children’s
services, councils have improved packages for social workers in an
effort to attract and retain them.

Last month, Fife Council announced that it would raise social
workers’ annual salary to nearly £32,000 if they have three
years’ experience and have undertaken post-qualifying training. It
followed a similar move by Glasgow in late 2003.

Phil Robinson, head of charity Quarriers, which provides support
for children, adults and families, says it is struggling to attract
social workers, particularly from children’s services.

“On our pay scales, a project manager – who has three to five
years’ experience – is paid about the same as a qualified social
worker at a council. We can’t compete and are finding it very
difficult to recruit, particularly in child protection,” he

Nancy Hamilton, vice-chair of the Scottish committee of the
Social Care Association, says the sector can’t pay the rates it
would like because it doesn’t receive its fair share of money from
the Scottish executive or from councils.

“All the legislation coming out is geared to the statutory
sector, which receives most of the funding while we get the crumbs.
We deficit-fund most of our units. I can see voluntary and private
sector services being forced to close,” she says.

Addie Stevenson, director of children and family services at
Aberlour Child Care Trust, agrees. “Improved pay and conditions in
one sector will have implications for other sectors. This needs to
be recognised, particularly given the increasing role the voluntary
sector plays in providing social care services.”

But Janet Miller, director of the Voluntary Sector Social
Services Workforce Unit, says the sector has to rebrand itself and
sell its other advantages, such as the ability to work more closely
with clients and reduce bureaucracy.

“Pay does matter but the disparity is getting bigger and that
will be the case for some time. But there are other benefits.

“Research shows there are two kinds of worker coming through:
for some, money is the premium incentive but around half are more
idealistic and will go for jobs that give the greatest job
satisfaction. The voluntary sector will be well placed to attract
these people,” she adds.

But Nick Johnson, acting chief executive of the Social Care
Association, feels it may be the nature of voluntary sector social
work that is the problem rather than poor pay.

“It is generally a residential environment, which involves
working weekends and bank holidays, while field work is generally
nine to five for better money. People want jobs that are less
intrusive on their domestic lives and residential work is perceived
to have less status than field work,” he says.

BOXTEXT: salary levels in Scotland
<25CF> Newly qualified social worker, salary at Fife Council:
<25CF> Senior social worker, salary at Fife Council:
<25CF> Residential child care worker, children’s charity:
<25CF> Service managers, voluntary sector: £25,000.

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