Care staff ‘terrified’ to be tested due to money concerns, claims union boss

Private care home staff in Scotland are “terrified” to be tested for Covid-19 due to fears they will suffer financially due to self-isolation, a union leader has claimed.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the GMB’s Scotland secretary Gary Smith called on the Scottish Government to step in and offer care staff forced to self-isolate a package of support.

Mr Smith said there is a “scandal” brewing in private Scottish care homes over the rewards carers receive.

The union leader said there are no measures in place to financially support those care staff who need to self-isolate.

He said: “These people do professional work for under £10 an hour.

“Immediately – this week – the Scottish Government should end the scandal of the fact that workers in care who test positive, and many of them do, are left in poverty if they’re off work as a result of testing positive.”

He added: “We have workers in the private sector that are terrified to get tested positive because if they’re put off their work they’re living on subsistence levels of money – they’re on statutory sick pay.

“At least in the public sector, workers aren’t well paid but if they’re put off their work their families are not going to starve.

“It’s a scandal that care workers are terrified to be tested. We have to immediately address this scandal.”

Mr Smith also said the Scottish Government is “fiddling while the care home sector burns”, referencing new measures announced on Sunday to increase oversight of the industry.

According to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, public bodies will have powers to intervene if there is a “significant risk” to care home residents, if amendments to the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Bill are passed this week.

Mr Smith said the new regulations are the “right thing to do” but were proposed “too late”.

He said: “My concern is that the Scottish Government are constantly reacting, rather than planning as we go through this crisis.

“It’s the right move, it comes late, but it’s not going to deal with the underlying crisis that we’ve got within care.”

Speaking at the daily Scottish Government briefing on coronavirus, Ms Freeman said: “I don’t think that a care home worker should be afraid to be tested because if they’re positive and have to stay at home as we want them to do then their income every week reduces so significantly to only statutory sick pay.”

Mr Smith repeatedly said there should be a national care plan put in place, involving both the public and private care sectors.”

Elsewhere, HC-One, the operator of facilities including the virus-hit Home Farm care home in Portree, Skye, confirmed on Monday there were 1,002 suspected or confirmed cases in its Scotland homes.

To date, 207 residents have died in its homes with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.

Ten of those are at the Skye care home where NHS Highland has stepped in to play a greater role in running the facility after the Care Inspectorate raised concerns.

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