Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar called for “our frontline heroes” to be rewarded with a better pay boost.
It comes after the Auditor General for Scotland warned there are “huge challenges facing the sustainability” of the sector and reform “cannot wait” for the Scottish Government to set up its planned National Care Service.
Mr Sarwar called the report a “stark warning”.
He said the coronavirus pandemic has had a “devastating impact”, adding: “Less than one per cent of our population live in a care home, yet they account for a third of all Covid deaths.”
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Sarwar said: “The SNP have been in Government for 15 years – there is no one else to blame.
“A social care sector neglected before the pandemic, failed during the pandemic.
“A workforce ignored, overstretched and undervalued.
“Those in need of care at home neglected and struggling to cope.
“Unpaid carers, disproportionately women, carrying the burden of this Government’s failures.
“We have been calling for a National Care Service for over a decade, but it can’t now be used as a government slogan to delay action until 2026.
“Carers and those who need the care can’t wait another four years.”
Mr Sarwar called on the First Minister to restart respite services, pause commissioning to focus on the delivery of social care and end non-residential care charges.
He insisted the workforce should also get a “pay increase they deserve – a 48p pay increase simply won’t cut it”.
Ms Sturgeon said there is an “urgent need” for social care reform, adding: “That is what we are taking forward through the proposals for a National Care Service.”
She said the Government wants to set up its National Care Service by the end of this parliamentary term.
She added: “In the meantime, we are increasing investment in social care.
“We are increasing the pay of those who work in social care because recruitment and retention and the valuation of the social care workforce is an important part of what we need to do.”
The First Minister said the Government has committed to increasing investment in social care by 25 per cent over this parliamentary term.
She said ministers have also taken steps to boost pay, with an increase of 12.9 per cent compared to March 2021 already delivered.
She added: “Does that go far enough? No, and we have said that we want it to go further.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “We recognize the need for action immediately. We are taking action immediately.
“We are also working with partners to attract more people into the sector.”
She said Brexit and the end of the free movement posed “significant” challenges.
The joint briefing from Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission raised problems including rising demand for social care and the “fragility” of the workforce.
Auditor General Stephen Boyle said: “We cannot wait another five years until the planned National Care Service is in place.
“Action must happen now, and at speed, by the Scottish Government.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.