Data which reveals that nearly £150m has been spent on agency workers to staff social care services across Scotland in the last five years have been branded “staggering”.
Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives show local authorities have spent nearly £150m on agency workers to staff their social care services since 2017/18.
The rate of spending increased from £19,086,849 in 2017/18 to £32,412,436 in 2021/22 – a rise of more than two-thirds.
Total council outlay on agency staff over those five years – plus 2022/23 so far – stands at a total of £149,312,869.
Edinburgh Council have spent the most on agency staff in their local authority-run social care settings, racking up a bill of more than £30m over the last five years.
Inverclyde Council have been forced to up their spending on agency staff by almost 1400%, in a leap from £15,540 to £230,453.
Shadow social care minister Craig Hoy has branded the figures “staggering” and is urging the SNP to U-turn on their National Care Service plans, which he warns would divert vital funding away from frontline care.
He said: “The SNP are presiding over a social care crisis in Scotland.
“Their savage funding cuts – exacerbated by John Swinney’s budget earlier this month – have crippled local councils, and now the SNP plan to impose total ministerial control, via a National Care Service. This will be a disaster for social care in Scotland.
“These staggering figures highlight the huge problem the industry has with recruitment and retention of staff, which has led to this increasing reliance on agency staff. And stakeholders are clear that a National Care Service will do nothing to address these issues.
“The last thing we need right now is an administrative overhaul of the system, which would only result in precious resources being taken from the frontline to employ hundreds more management staff.
“The SNP’s own estimates show that establishing a National Care Service could cost an eye-watering £1.3bn.
“The Scottish Conservatives continue to oppose the SNP’s irresponsible and expensive plans, and would instead establish a Local Care Service as an effective alternative.
“We want every penny poured into local care provision, which would be far more responsive than a costly, centralised bureaucracy.
“We urge the SNP to abandon this reckless, unaffordable policy before even more money is drained away from the frontline.”
Social care minister Kevin Stewart said: “In a system as wide ranging and complex as the care system, there will always be a need for temporary staff to provide the care needed.
“We have funded two pay rises in the last year to improve recruitment and retention in social care and are leading the way increasing minimum hourly pay rates for adult social care workers.
“The recovery of our NHS from the pandemic relies on us making our social care services sustainable.
“We are working with providers and partners to support these vital services as we design the model for the new National Care Service together, so we can be sure to put fair work at its heart, giving workers more say and helping the Scottish Government design how it will work.”