In a report titled Care After Covid: A Vision For Social Care In Scotland, the union said the social care sector was “woefully under-prepared” for the pandemic.
It said an inadequate testing programme and employer pressure on care workers to attend work against public health advice meant they were exposed to “significantly higher” risk of contracting Covid-19.
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Unison said there needs to be substantial extra investment in social care as a matter of urgency, and that the social care sector needs to be seen as an important economic sector providing high-quality, well-paid jobs.
Unison Scottish secretary Mike Kirby said: “Never again should there be vulnerable people dying in their thousands in care homes because of poor planning, ignorance, or the pursuit of profits. Fundamental reform to create a system fit for the future is not optional, it is essential.”
The union said care staff must be paid at least the Scottish Living Wage – or at least £10 an hour until the Living Wage reaches this level – and called for a new standard employment contract including sick pay, contracted hours and payment for all the time they are on duty.
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Unison said the aspiration over time should be to deliver the vast majority of social care through public funding, which, it said, would begin to remove some of the differences in service quality between NHS and social care services.
Earlier this month the Record revealed cross-party moves to design not-for-profit care service along the lines of the NHS.
Nicola Sturgeon said she has “huge sympathy” for a plan that could lead to greater public control of care homes.
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Gary Smith of the GMB trade union previously said: “The Record’s intervention has been vital, pressuring our politicians and raising this into the wider public consciousness. Scotland is now waking-up to the fact we need a better way for social care, where service users can be treated with dignity and workers are properly valued.
However, Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents the independent sector, said: "The debate around a National Care Service should not be a knee-jerk reaction to trauma but should first of all help people understand what such a service might look like. Social care should not be conflated with the NHS. Making it sound similar does great damage to social care.
"The creation of a National Care Service should not be based on the premise of the NHS model. Doing so fails to recognise the differences between social care and healthcare, which whilst integrated and related, need to be acknowledged as requiring quite distinct forms of support."