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Meeting date: Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Meeting of the Parliament 18 May 2022 [Draft]

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Supporting Carers (Cost of Living), Scottish Attainment Challenge, Points of Order, Business Motions, Decision Time, Adverse Weather Events


Contents


Supporting Carers (Cost of Living)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-04441, in the name of Jackie Baillie, on supporting carers during the cost of living crisis.

14:55  

I am grateful for the opportunity to hold this debate. There is no doubt that we face a cost of living crisis the likes of which we have not experienced in a generation. Inflation has risen to 9 per cent during the past six months and will be at least 10 per cent by the end of the year. Economists are forecasting a recession: things are tough, and they are going to get tougher.

During the pandemic, unpaid carers and social care workers stepped up to the plate. They shouldered an enormous burden as they kept loved ones safe, and they still carry that responsibility because services have not fully resumed. Pre-pandemic, too many carers experienced poverty and the problem is now much worse.

Carers Scotland found that more than half of unpaid carers are currently unable to afford their monthly expenses, and that their financial situations have worsened during the past six months. Carers have also seen increases in the costs of products and services that they need for the people for whom they care. Everything has gone up, from personal protective equipment to incontinence pads to medical equipment.

Among carers, 87 per cent think that they will not be able to heat their home to a safe level, 41 per cent are worried that they will have to use a food bank, and the overwhelming majority are worried about the impact on their mental and physical health from the additional stress and anxiety that the cost of living crisis is causing.

If we value carers, as we say we do, we must not allow that to continue. The time to act is now. It is no longer good enough for the Scottish Government to simply blame the United Kingdom Tory Government and wring its hands; the Scottish Government also has a responsibility to act.

This morning, I talked to carers from across Scotland, who said:

“Crumbs on the table are no longer enough. Unpaid carers save the Government £43 million a day and without us, the system would collapse. The Carer’s allowance supplement is wiped out by hidden costs like laundry, and there is no recognition of this. We are constantly having to fight, and this must stop.”

Scottish Labour has set out many times the actions that the Scottish National Party Government can take. First, ending non-residential care charges—which both Scottish Labour and the SNP committed to in their manifestos—should be done now. That will make an instant difference to the amount of money that people have in their pockets.

Secondly, the Government should increase access to the welfare fund for unpaid carers, and make caring responsibilities a qualifying criterion for grants.

Thirdly, the Government should keep the carers allowance supplement at the enhanced rate. It should also, in order to meet the increased costs of energy, develop additional financial support for households that include disabled people and carers because energy costs are higher for them than they are for the general population.

Finally, the Government should implement a strategy for unpaid carers. I know that one is coming, but please let it include action on poverty and the restoration and expansion of respite services, with entitlement to short breaks and wellbeing services.

We have suggested five simple things that the Scottish Government can do now, if it wants to. It has the power to act; the responsibility lies with it.

Let me turn to social care staff. I met Shona, Samantha, Shirley and Val this morning—they are care workers from around Scotland—and they said:

“We are so understaffed that we have to cover between 10 and 12 extra visits per week. We work in partnership with the NHS and care for the same clients, so we simply do not understand why we are treated differently. We are being asked to pay huge amounts on fuel, and there is no support in place for us.”

Some care workers in my constituency are subsidising their employers. They work in the private sector and they get 25 pence per mile. The cost of petrol has skyrocketed, so in visiting their clients they spend more than they are reimbursed. Although NHS staff have rightly received a 5p per mile increase in the mileage rate allowance from the Government—which I welcome—social care staff have been left behind once again. We must also remember that the starting position of most NHS staff is 45p per mile, whereas the amount for some people in the care sector is 25p per mile.

My question to the Government is this: why does it persist in treating social care workers as second-class citizens? They deserve parity of esteem; they deserve the same financial recompense for caring for people.

It was only six months ago that the SNP and Greens rejected Scottish Labour’s calls to deliver an immediate pay rise to £12 per hour for social care staff, moving to £15 per hour the following year. Instead, they opted for a measly 48p pay increase. We must remember that we are talking about a predominantly female workforce that is low paid. The SNP has paid lip service to them. It cannot be right that retail and hospitality jobs pay so much more than social care jobs. Of course, the Greens used to believe that social care workers deserved £15 per hour, but their principles went out the window for a ministerial Mondeo and a £31,383 pay rise for each of the two Green ministers. That is more than a care worker earns in a year. That is shameful.

Social care staff are not immune to the cost of living crisis. We should be exploring every opportunity to help them and to retain their skills in the sector. Another suggestion, which was made by the trade unions, is that the Government pay workers’ Scottish Social Services Council registration fees. That would be a small but important gesture.

You need to wind up, Ms Baillie.

I will come to a conclusion, Presiding Officer.

None of that should be a surprise to the SNP Government. It does not need to spend months and years deliberating over what to do and it does not need to blame someone else. It can act: it has the power to make a difference and carers need it to do so now.

I move,

That the Parliament is concerned by the escalating pressures that the cost of living crisis is putting on both the social care workforce and unpaid carers across Scotland, the majority of whom are women; recognises that poor pay and working practices in social care have been increasingly exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and have created a recruitment crisis; notes that the rise in fuel prices is impacting on the ability of care workers to visit the people they support; calls on the Scottish Government to immediately end all non-residential care charges and implement a strategy for unpaid carers, which includes the restoration and expansion of respite services, with entitlements to short breaks and wellbeing services, and resolves that the mileage reimbursement rate for care workers is increased by five pence per mile, as agreed for NHS workers.

I advise members that we are tight for time, so I require that colleagues stick to their time allocations. I call Kevin Stewart to speak to and move amendment S6M-04441.2. You have around five minutes.

15:02  

I thank carers—paid and unpaid—for their remarkable work in providing critical and invaluable support to people across Scotland.

The Tory cost of living crisis has an impact on everyone in Scotland, including on the social care workforce and unpaid carers. The Scottish Government has already committed to increasing spend in social care by 25 per cent by the end of the current session of Parliament, in order to help to lay the groundwork for the establishment of a national care service.

We will take forward the ambitious reforms, but we do not want to wait for the NCS to come into being before we take action. This year, funding of £846.6 million will be transferred from the health portfolio to local authorities for a range of investments in health, social care and mental health services.

We want, through working in collaboration with our partners, to see improvements in recruitment and retention, fair work and ethical commissioning. We are fully committed to improving the experience of the social care workforce, including by increasing levels of pay, because we recognise and value the work that those staff do.

Will the minister give way?

I will carry on for the moment, because I have a lot to get through.

From April, we have provided funding of £200 million to local government to support investment in health and social care, embed improved pay and conditions and deliver a £10.50 per hour minimum wage for all adult social care staff in commissioned services from 1 April 2022. I remind members that that is more than social care staff are paid south of the border and in Labour-controlled Wales. That represents an increase of 12.9 per cent over the year.

What would the minister say to the 51 per cent of local authority staff who earn below £25,000 a year and for whom the figure for a pay increase that is on the table is only 2 per cent? Many of those staff are social carers.

I say to everyone right across the country that at this moment we require an emergency budget from the Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer to address the cost of living crisis. That is what we need. I would like this Parliament to have all the levers of power to enable it to deal with such things, but we do not—which is something that Labour members do not acknowledge. The UK Government giving us powers over employment law is one thing that would be very helpful indeed.

We are also working with the fair work in social care group, which has developed a set of recommendations for minimum standards for terms and conditions that reflect fair work principles. An ethical approach to commissioning and, as a consequence, to any procurement of care and support will have massive benefits for staff and supported people alike. There have been some gains already from early adopters in local government, but that approach must be extended and enhanced.

In relation to increasing fuel costs, the Scottish Government does not set the mileage rates that are paid to social care staff; those are agreed by their employers—1,200 individual employers, as I have told the chamber before.

The Scottish Government is committed to abolishing charges for non-residential social care and support, so that provision of those services is based on a person’s need and not their ability to pay. We are working with stakeholders to develop options to achieve that as soon as is practicable.

Is not it right to say that the private companies are being squeezed, and that they cannot pass on money that they do not have? If that were to be sorted out, they would be able to pass on their money.

No, I do not think that all private companies are being squeezed during the cost of living crisis. Some companies are making huge profits. Why should the Government subsidise those private companies? I find it absolutely hypocritical that Dr Gulhane has lodged an amendment that says that the Scottish Government should find the money to pay for people’s additional fuel costs, when he is too afraid to say the same thing to the chancellor from his own party and to call for an emergency budget now.

Will the minister give way?

No—I need to crack on.

We have improved support for Scotland’s unpaid carers as a priority, using our social security powers. Our carers allowance supplement was the first payment that was made by Social Security Scotland. It increases carers allowance by over 13 per cent, with eligible carers receiving a payment every six months.

We are doing more than that. In January, we announced an additional £4 million to help organisations that work with unpaid carers to put in place expanded services this winter. On top of that, we have invested an additional £20.4 million for local carer support in 2022-23, which brings total investment this year in Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 provisions to £88.4 million. We have also earmarked additional funding for short breaks and we will introduce a new carers strategy, which we are working on with carers.

The key thing in all this is that the UK Government needs to play its part to address the cost of living crisis for all of us. It needs to implement an emergency budget now to address the costs of living for care workers, for unpaid carers and for society as a whole.

I move amendment S6M-04441.2, to leave out from “recognises” to end and insert:

“recognises the severe and ongoing impact of Brexit on the recruitment and retention of social care workers; believes that responsibility for employment law should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament so that it can embed fair work principles, including enshrining the real Living Wage for all ages; notes that the minimum hourly rate for adult social care workers in commissioned services in Scotland increased by over 10% to £10.50 per hour in the last year; supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to scrapping non-residential care charges and introducing the National Care Service; further supports that the principles of fair work and ethical commissioning will be embedded within the National Care Service; welcomes the additional £5 million for short breaks for 2022-23 to enable more families and young carers to take a break from caring; encourages local authorities to engage with social care providers and contractors to address increased fuel costs for staff, particularly through mileage rates, and calls on the UK Government to take forward an emergency budget to address the cost of living crisis and increasing fuel costs, not least its impact on unpaid carers.”

I call Sandesh Gulhane to speak to and move S6M-04441.1. You have five minutes, Dr Gulhane.

15:08  

The minister seems to think that private companies that are providing care to our most vulnerable are making vast amounts of profit. I would welcome an example.

I believe that all of us in the chamber recognise that our social care workforce are overwhelmed and we acknowledge their immense work. The pandemic exacerbated—[Interruption.]—Sorry, is there something that you would like to say?

I call Michelle Thomson.

I forget the exact name of Robert Kilgour’s private care homes, but I think that he funds the Tory party to the tune of £220,000 a month. Perhaps you can ask him to make a contribution.

Members should speak through the chair. I call Dr Gulhane.

Well, I believe that your facts and figures, like everything to do with SNP and facts and figures, are all wrong. Let us move on.

The pandemic exacerbated long-standing challenges facing the sector, which has long experienced increasing workloads, burnout and rising sickness levels. More than 200,000 staff work in social care in Scotland and we know that they are ignored, overstretched, poorly paid, undervalued and, frankly, hamstrung by a lack of effective leadership from the SNP-Green Government. Recruitment and retention rates are poor, with a quarter of staff leaving within three months of joining an organisation. Let us not forget Scotland’s 700,000 vitally important unpaid carers, who have seen rest and respite services closed since the Covid pandemic struck.

Will Dr Gulhane give way?

I need to crack on.

The knock-on impact is increased anxiety, depression and mental health exhaustion.

We have a duty to act to get a grip, and we need to act today. Of course, there are different views in the chamber on how to tackle the crisis. We support the principles that are set out in Labour’s motion, albeit with some fine tuning of the words. The SNP-Green Government has savagely cut local authority budgets, so it must centrally fund all Labour’s calls.

Does Dr Gulhane think that the national insurance hike is helping or hindering with regard to the cost of living crisis?

We need to be clear that the increase in national insurance is coming this way through the Barnett consequentials to help us here in Scotland.

Will Dr Gulhane give way on that point?

I really need to continue, but I will come back to the minister if I have time.

We also need to ensure that allowances for carers are handled efficiently and effectively. The statistics for December show that just 3 per cent of claims were settled within 10 days, while complaints to Social Security Scotland soared by 200 per cent in two years. We are calling for unpaid carers in full-time education to receive the carers allowance immediately and for unpaid carers to continue receiving carers allowance for up to six months after bereavement.

As Gillian Martin said, there is the not so small matter of more than £1 billion coming to the Scottish Government from the UK health and social care levy. That must be passed on in full, and there should be a clear audit trail so that we can see how the money is spent and so that Audit Scotland can ensure that public money is spent properly.

Dr Gulhane could do us all a favour if he would join with me and ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when we will actually catch sight of that money. How much is coming to Scotland and when we will get it? There is no clarity on that whatsoever, and if—

Dr Gulhane.

It is clear that there is a lot of money coming our way—

Where and when?

What we are asking for is the Government to promise to ring fence it and not fund its pet vanity project—[Interruption.]

Dr Gulhane, hold on a second.

Minister, the member has taken an intervention. Shouting from a sedentary position is not going to help us get through a debate in which we are already tight for time.

Dr Gulhane, I can give you some additional time, but not an awful lot.

Audit Scotland says:

“a lack of action now presents serious risks to the delivery of care services for individuals.”

Audit Scotland also points out that the SNP-Green Government’s

“inability or unwillingness to share information, along with a lack of relevant data, means that there are major gaps in the information needed to inform improvements in social care.

Given the SNP’s track record when it comes to public sector centralisation, we should all be worried about scrapping local accountability and imposing ministerial control. Let us have a quick look at the record. We had the botched merger of local police. What about the SNP Government’s management of big-money projects? There are inquiries into the business case and governance of the Edinburgh children’s hospital and Glasgow Queen Elizabeth hospital, where the SNP was responsible for £150 million of cost overrun.

The SNP has also made a hash of its adventures in boat craft, with the now infamous project to build two CalMac ferries, which is £150 million over budget and five years late. We are now told that they might not even enter service.

Will the member give way?

Well—

No, you cannot, Dr Gulhane. You are just about to wind up.

Indeed I am.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is also concerned.

Finally, we need to address quality. The current focus on cost has suppressed staff salaries, contributed to high vacancy levels and prioritised the speedy completion of care home visits at the expense of emotional care and relationships. We believe in providing the Care Inspectorate with a wider scope of powers to promote sustained improvement of care services over time and to deal with issues that do not meet the high bar of serious risk to life, health or wellbeing.

Before I move the Scottish Conservatives’ amendment in my name, I point members to my entry in the register of members’ interests, which shows that I am a practising NHS doctor.

I move amendment S6M-04441.1, to leave out from “immediately” to the end and insert:

“provide funding to local authorities and integration authorities to end all non-residential charges; regrets that local government revenue has decreased by 20% in real terms since 2013-14 according to COSLA; calls on the Scottish Government to implement a strategy for unpaid carers, which includes the restoration and expansion of respite services, with entitlements to short breaks and wellbeing services; further calls for Carer’s Allowance to be made available immediately to unpaid carers in full-time education; calls for payments of Carer’s Allowance to be made to unpaid carers for up to six months after bereavement; further calls on the Scottish Government to guarantee that funding received through the Health and Social Care Levy will be passed on in full, and, while welcoming the UK Government’s cut to fuel duty, considers that the mileage reimbursement for care workers should be temporarily increased, based on the cost of fuel, and funded by the Scottish Government, by five pence per mile, as agreed for NHS workers.”

15:14  

I thank my friend Jackie Baillie for bringing to the chamber this important debate on an issue that is far too often ignored in the Parliament. There are currently almost 700,000 unpaid carers in Scotland, and almost 210,000 people working professionally in the Scottish care sector. In total, carers account for 16 per cent of our overall adult population, which is astonishing. The services that they provide are indispensable. It is estimated that unpaid carers alone contribute a value of £36 billion every single year in Scotland. The positive impact that a carer will have on the person for whom they care, and on that person’s family and community, is unquantifiable.

The American professor Leo Buscaglia has said:

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear ... all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

That is the true value that carers visit on their charges each and every single day, through their ability to soothe, reinvigorate and fortify. Families should be able to rest easy, knowing that, regardless of who is caring for their loved ones, it is someone whom they can trust and who has the capacity, resources and fortitude to deliver the best possible standard of care.

Unfortunately, however, we know that that is all too often not the case, as our carers are stretched to breaking point. While all carers work unbelievably hard to provide care, they are simply not given the right support to enable them to keep up with the inordinate workload. At least 15 per cent of the caring workforce regularly work unpaid overtime, while unpaid carers have to go for long periods of time without breaks and have to sacrifice other aspects of their life. We know that during the pandemic, in lockdown, the closure of services such as adult respite care only compounded the situation in which unpaid carers found themselves. All of that puts significant strain on carers’ health and wellbeing.

Worryingly, despite an act of this Parliament enshrining the rights of those same carers to access support and advice, according to a survey that was conducted in 2019, only 16 per cent of carers knew about that legislation and the rights that it provides, and more than half of them had not heard of the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 at all. That is why the Scottish Liberal Democrats have campaigned for an update to the act in the light of the pandemic, and have campaigned to actively include carers and service users in the process to better bind lived experience with the legislation that we passed in the chamber.

As we have heard, and as the motion mentions, the cost of living crisis has had a devastating impact on social care. Half of unpaid carers across the UK report that they are unable to afford their monthly household expenses. Meanwhile, professional carers feel that their salaries can no longer provide the income and stability that they sorely need and deserve.

The situation is dire, and it needs urgent attention. Kevin Stewart would argue that the answer lies in the creation of a so-called national care service, but it does not. A national care service would strip individuals and local communities of the little agency that they have left. It would put powers with ministers: the very same ministers who were responsible for sending untested and Covid-positive patients into our care homes when we were in the foothills of the pandemic.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that the answer lies not with centralisation and bureaucracy, but with localism, giving the ability to make decisions to the people who are most affected by them. That includes working with local government to introduce a package of new carer benefits; establishing a new fund to support training and education for carers who are returning to work; and moving away from narrow work-based contracts towards more holistic, flexible roles.

Those are all Liberal Democrat policies, and they could be implemented right now without building complicated and unnecessary structures, so what is the Government waiting for? We are legislating on the precipice of the worst crisis in a century; it is our duty to protect the vulnerable and those who are caring for them, and we must do so urgently. That is why the Scottish Liberal Democrats will support Labour’s motion.

15:19  

The cost of living crisis has impacted, and continues to impact, on communities up and down the country. At this moment, in this debate, we all need to focus on that fact. Just this week, it was reported that,

“one in five people in Scotland”

—many of whom, we understand, will be unpaid carers and care workers—

“are struggling to pay for their weekly food shop”.

That figure should shame us all.

Behind the numbers are stories of family members and key workers struggling to get by, and of people who provide care to the most vulnerable in our society being unable to make ends meet. That should be a reminder to members of all parties that inaction is not acceptable; sitting on their hands will not put money in people’s pockets.

I need to send a message to the minister that, by definition, a crisis ought to be responded to with purpose and with maximum strength, using all available resources. It is not a surprise that the Tories have shown such a lack of political will to assist those most in need, but it is truly shameful that the SNP and the Greens here in this Parliament have not stepped up and supported measures that would offer immediate assistance to people in dire need. Today, however, they have another chance. Today, Scottish Labour heard from carers: the very best of society, caring for loved ones. Now we need to ensure that the Parliament hears them and responds by supporting the motion.

It is fair to say that the SNP Government has failed to recognise that the crisis can be tackled properly only through the implementation of radical policy here in Scotland. In failing to hear that, it has failed our carers, paid and unpaid.

In the short time that I have, I want to emphasise that Scottish Labour’s motion has, importantly, highlighted the increased fuel prices that are making it more difficult for care workers to visit the people they support. I have heard that many times, so I want the Scottish Government to listen. If the Government wants to join us in reducing the burden that is placed on care workers, it will support our proposal to increase mileage reimbursement for care workers by five pence per mile, as was agreed for NHS workers.

We ought not to be surprised by the lack of action thus far. Many of the issues facing social care workers that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, such as low pay and poor working conditions, among others, long pre-date both the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis, as we have heard. Our social care workforce is demoralised and people understandably feel as though they have been undervalued, underpaid and overworked for far too long. Scottish Labour’s call to immediately end non-residential care charges is an achievable one—we know that—yet, yesterday in committee, the minister seemed unable to detail any progress on those issues. He told us that his department is very busy, but he seemed able only to outline the poor pay offer from the Government: an insulting 48 pence increase.

Ultimately, the minister and the Government are bereft of ideas on how to support our unpaid carers and social care staff. It is clear that action is needed and needed urgently. Far too often, carers and care workers appear to be forgotten about by the Government. Families who use social care are often burdened by high costs, and those in care suffer the consequences of poor decision making.

For far too long, the social care workforce has been overworked. I call on other parties—I look to the SNP back benches and the Green benches—to support the motion, which values our unpaid carers and the social care workforce.

I call Gillian Martin, to be followed by Sue Webber. We will have to stick strictly to the speaking time allocations. You have up to four minutes, Ms Martin.

15:23  

Some people are feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis more than others. The walls of the chamber have echoed for weeks and months to speeches from members on most benches about our deep worries for people who are already in poverty and those who are in work who are being plunged into poverty. It is right that Labour is using its debate time to address the impact of the crisis on carers, because it is not right that people are bearing the cost of doing their job, particularly in relation to mileage remuneration for those who use their own cars for their clients in the face of stratospheric petrol and diesel costs.

I will take the example of one of my constituents. She is a home carer, working in the Aberdeenshire area and getting £10.93 an hour. She earns roughly £20,000 a year before tax. She comes from a two-earner household: her husband is a teacher at an Aberdeenshire secondary school. She enjoys being a carer, and it fits in with her life: she has three kids to look after. She loves her job. She gets a mileage reimbursement of 35p a mile and averages about 150 miles a week, visiting rural clients in her diesel car. She fills up the tank about three times a month, and she has noticed that that costs about £15 more than it did in January. Her mileage reimbursement has, of course, stayed the same.

The couple calculates that they spend about £90 per month more on using the car to both their jobs. Their combined domestic electricity and gas bill has also gone up by about £90, and they reckon that their food costs have easily risen by £80 per month. However, it is the national insurance rise that has affected their family income the most. Her teacher husband is seeing an extra £120 coming off his pay packet at source. All in all, the family estimates that it is about £400 worse off every month. She said, “I am lucky. I have my husband and he is earning more than me. What if I was on my own?”.

I am therefore in agreement with Labour that my constituent and other carers need help. However, where I do not agree with Labour is about the asks that it has made. The 12.9 per cent pay increase that the Scottish Government facilitated for care workers is well above inflation, and it is the highest in these islands. Every move that the Scottish Government makes to ease the pressure on low and middle-income earners is all but cancelled out by the fiscal irresponsibility to the vast majority of workers and the poorest in our society through decisions that are made at UK Government level. Jackie Baillie said that the carers allowance supplement has been wiped out, but wiped out by whom and by what? It is wiped out because of what happens at Westminster.

Yes, the causes of the increased fuel and food costs are global and partly the outcome of current geopolitics.

Will the member give way?

I have not got time. We are facing the same effects of the same issues as every other country, but UK fuel duty is around 40 per cent. Last month’s 5 per cent reduction is not enough and it is not keeping up with fuel price rises. We need to put a windfall tax in operation on all companies that are profiting from our situation, and we need to cut VAT on fuel bills.

I do not have much faith that the Conservatives will do the right thing, but I was genuinely shocked when the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, went ahead with the national insurance rise in the face of ordinary people’s electricity and gas bills doubling, and in the face of huge rises in the cost of the weekly shop.

Will the member take an intervention?

I do not have time.

This is the most regressive tax that I have seen since the poll tax, yet Labour’s only answer is for the Scottish Government to mitigate bad decisions by Tories in Westminster at a cost of £600 million a year. What could we spend that £600 million on? Increasing public sector wages, perhaps?

I say to Labour that, for once, they should turn their fire on those who can act to reduce the tax, fuel and food cost rises at source. Let us ensure that that 12.9 per cent increase is not swallowed up. Let us ensure that we do not rely on Tories, whose response to the cost of living crisis is to say that people should simply change to supermarket value brands, work more hours, decide to earn more money or sit on buses instead of putting their heating on.

15:28  

There is a crisis in our social care service. Staff are overwhelmed, having gone above and beyond during the pandemic, but they have not been given the leadership or supportive environment that they need from this SNP Government. Quite frankly, there has been no leadership at all.

It is not just the SNP that is at fault. Instead of working to address the crisis in social care, Scottish Labour is working with and focused on the centralisation of care services alongside the SNP. That will hollow out local councils even further.

Perhaps the member is not aware of what is in the Labour Party manifesto, and I could forgive her for that. However, if she did read it, she would understand that it is about local delivery and accountability. Will she change what she has just said in the light of that factual information?

There is still an impression that Labour supports a national care service. With that, I will carry on with my speech.

The message from service users and people with lived experience is clear: it is local services that they want; it is local services that can adapt to the diverse nature of their needs; and it is local services and third party organisations that we should focus on and invest in. They are delivering the services that people want.

Labour supports the plans for a national care service, despite organisations such as the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Fraser of Allander Institute voicing serious concerns.

The SNP’s plans amount to a blatant power grab. Costly new legislation and centralised structures are not the solution. That is why the Scottish Conservatives would offer a local care service, which would protect individual choice and individual control.

Will the member take an intervention?

Not at the moment.

Our local care service would include a local care guarantee, which would ensure that support was delivered as close as possible to the people who need it, especially in rural and island communities.

We want positive action to be taken. We would give further powers to the Care Inspectorate to drive up standards of local care. A wider scope of powers should be considered to promote sustained improvement of poor care services over time.

We would build minimum pay and terms and conditions into commissioning and procurement, as the Feeley review recommended. We would make care a rewarding career path and would ensure that commissioned services rewarded length of service and positive job performance with pay progression and development of the skills base and responsibilities.

We would institute rigorous workforce planning for the future. A robust, transparent data set to underpin that work can be developed without a national care service. Ours would be not merely a workforce plan that was affordable, but one that was based on forward capacity planning carried out by people who deliver the services and those who access them.

We would improve the carers allowance and extend payments. We would do that by introducing a taper rate so that carers do not lose 100 per cent of their allowance if they earn £1 more than the £128 per week limit. We would also extend payments of carers allowance to up to six months after bereavement and would allow carers in full-time education to continue to receive the carers allowance.

We would amend the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 to give unpaid carers automatic rights to support for breaks from caring. Right now, only around 3 per cent of unpaid carers receive statutory support for breaks from caring.

The UK Government’s health and social care levy delivers a clear union dividend. In 2024-25, Scotland will benefit from an additional £1.1 billion because of the health and social care levy. We are calling on the Scottish Government to guarantee that that fund will be passed on and ring fenced in full.

Although we welcome the UK Government’s cut in fuel duty, we consider that the mileage reimbursement for care workers should be temporarily increased by 5p per mile, based on the cost of fuel, as has been agreed for NHS workers. Most importantly, it should be funded by the Scottish Government.

Will the member give way?

Yes, I will.

As briefly as possible, minister.

Does Ms Webber still agree with what she said last year, when she said that public sector workers should have a pay freeze? She also said that she thought that it might be wise to consider a 20 per cent pay cut. Does she still agree with those comments?

I think that the minister is manufacturing a false grievance. The public want us to work together.

The UK Government has stepped up during the cost of living crisis, by providing a £22 billion package of support, which includes a cut in fuel duty and an increase in the national insurance thresholds. Instead of pressing ahead with a bureaucratic overhaul of services, the SNP should bring forward reforms now.

15:33  

The cost of living crisis is really starting to impact on the most vulnerable people in our society. Inflation is forecast to reach 10.25 per cent, fuel poverty is expected to double and food bank usage is up by 50 per cent.

Who can forget the silence among Tory members when the Parliament debated the cut in universal credit that impacted the poorest in our society?

Will the member give way?

No—I do not have time.

That Tory silence was replicated in council chambers across Scotland.

What makes the situation even more galling is that, across Scotland, Labour and Tory councillors are sitting together over cups of tea putting council administrations in place. [Interruption.] In Stirling, East Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire councils, and probably more, a Labour-Tory cosy-up is in motion. In East Lothian, we even had a Tory candidate telling voters that he was being promised the job of provost by the local Labour Party, if they supported a Labour administration.

Local authorities play a vitally important role in delivering social care.

Labour going into partnership with the Tories in Scotland is a slap in the face for anti-poverty action campaigners. Last night, Scottish Labour tweeted—

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

Mr McLennan, please resume your seat.

Presiding Officer, could you remind the chamber of what the standing orders say about speaking to the motion at hand in a given debate?

I have been listening to the speech. It has roamed a little further from the text than usual, but the member has referenced the relationship to local authorities delivering these services. Mr McLennan, please resume.

Thank you. I also reference social care and the cost of living crisis.

Last night, Scottish Labour tweeted:

“Tonight at Westminster, the Tories voted down a Labour amendment calling for a windfall tax on oil and gas giants.”

This is the best part:

“Make no mistake, the nasty party is back.”

What has that got to do with social care?

Across council chambers in Scotland, we see Scottish Labour keeping the bed warm for the Tories. The Scottish Labour Party prefers to work with what it calls “the nasty party”.

You are factually wrong.

I am not factually wrong.

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

I will give way to Jackie Baillie if she wants to stand up and tell us—

Mr McLennan, please resume your seat. Craig Hoy has a point of order.

Might I suggest that Mr McLennan has come to the wrong debate? I suggest that he retakes his seat and comes back when we hold the debate that his speech has clearly been written for.

That is not a point of order. Mr McLennan, please resume.

Thank you, Presiding Officer. Members do not like what they are hearing.

I will give way to Jackie Baillie if she can stand up and say that Labour will not go into administration with Tory colleagues.

If you would like to sit down, I would be happy to intervene on you.

Perhaps you might reflect on East Dunbartonshire. Could you perhaps tell me what is going on there?

Through the chair, please.

Of course.

Is there a collaboration going on in East Dunbartonshire between—let me guess—the SNP and Labour? Would the member care to reflect on that? Would he care to name the other councils that are having similar discussions?

Jackie Baillie did not answer my question.

In the past year, the Scottish Government has raised pay twice for social care staff. Kevin Stewart laid out other measures in his speech. In April this year, the minimum hourly rate for providing adult social care increased to £10.50, which was an increase of 4.8 per cent from the £10.02 that was introduced in December 2021 and an increase of 12.9 per cent in the course of a year. For a full-time adult social care worker, based on a working week of 37.5 hours, the increase represented an uplift of £1,600 over the financial year. The £10.50 hourly rate in Scotland is significantly higher than the national living wage rate, which will apply to many social care workers in England and Northern Ireland, with workers receiving less money per hour than those in Scotland.

The national care service is the most ambitious reform of public services since the creation of the NHS and it will be established, as the minister said, by the end of the current parliamentary session. With the creation of a national care service, we can take forward national pay bargaining for the social care sector for the first time.

The carers allowance supplement was the first payment made by Social Security Scotland. It increased the carers allowance by 13 per cent, with eligible carers receiving a payment of £231 every six months. In December last year, eligible carers received a double carers allowance supplement of £462 in recognition of additional pressures that they have faced as a result of the pandemic.

How can anyone take Labour members seriously on the cost of living crisis? They are holding hands with the architects of the crisis. The message is loud and clear: vote Labour, get the Tories—get the nasty party.

We now have absolutely no time left over the course of not just this debate but the subsequent debate, so I am going to have to require members to stick absolutely to their time, whether or not they take interventions.

15:38  

As many others have done, I thank all social care workers and unpaid care workers for everything that they do.

As the co-convener of the cross-party group on carers, I will focus on the impact of the cost of living crisis on unpaid carers. At CPG meetings, I have heard at first hand how unpaid carers and those whom they care for have been affected. Many have been experiencing rising costs against the backdrop of a global pandemic, during which they have been worried about the effect on Covid-19 on their loved ones, while also coping with the impact on their own mental and physical health of taking on more care.

As we know, Covid resulted in some people’s care packages being reduced or withdrawn, and it often fell to unpaid carers to fill the gaps. Research published in 2020 showed that an estimated 392,000 additional people in Scotland have become unpaid carers as a result of the pandemic, bringing the total number of carers in Scotland to around 1.1 million.

The cost of living crisis has a disproportionate impact on unpaid carers, many of whom face significant financial hardship because of their caring role. Research recently published by Carers Scotland revealed that 92 per cent of carers surveyed had seen their energy bills increase, and two thirds were already cutting back on heating.

There may be additional costs associated with caring. Carers often find themselves paying for items to keep the people they care for well and safe, such as personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. According to the Carers Scotland report, those costs have risen in the past six months.

There may also be additional energy costs associated with running electrical equipment if the person who is being cared for has mobility issues, because they may spend more time at home and therefore have higher energy consumption. That also applies to people who are receiving palliative care at home. Recent Marie Curie and Loughborough University research highlighted that the double burden of income loss and increased costs of living that are brought on by a terminal illness, such as higher energy bills and home adaptation costs, can leave people struggling to make ends meet.

All those factors must be taken into account when we consider the impacts of the cost of living crisis on carers and the level of support that is required.

Contrary to the advice that was recently offered by a certain UK minister, people, especially carers, cannot simply work more hours or move to a better-paid job to offset rising costs. Caring, which is often a full-time job in itself, impacts on unpaid carers’ ability to take up paid employment. According to Carers Scotland, six in 10 of those who care for 35 hours or more a week are not in paid employment.

I fully support the call in the Government amendment for the UK Government to take forward an emergency budget to address the cost of living crisis and increasing fuel costs, including the impact on unpaid carers. We need to see action on that now, because people are struggling and have been for some time.

Will the member take an intervention?

I do not have time; I am sorry.

Carers Scotland warned that, as well as the financial impact, the cost of living crisis is having an increasing impact on carers’ mental and physical health, with 80 per cent reporting that they feel stressed, anxious and worried about the steps that they would need to take to manage their current finances.

The greatest impact is often felt by full-time carers. We must deliver the right for unpaid carers to take breaks from caring as part of the national care service as a matter of urgency, and we must make sure that those breaks address the multitude of caring responsibilities that some people have.

I look forward to the publication of the Scottish Government’s carers strategy, and sincerely hope that it will set out clear actions that can be taken to improve support for unpaid carers across Scotland. Unpaid carers should be recognised as equal partners in care; our social care system would collapse without them, and the support that they provide is worth more than £10.9 billion to the Scottish economy each year. It is vital that we recognise that. We thank them for their efforts, but they need more than warm words and applause; they need action on the cost of living crisis and improved support that helps them to care for their own mental and physical health as well as that of the people for whom they care.

15:42  

When I read the SNP amendment this morning, I felt despair, because either the minister and his party are unwilling to recognise the key issues in social care, or they just do not know how to fix them. That gives me real concern; more important, it must concern the tens of thousands of older people up and down Scotland who are trapped in hospital because they cannot get a care package, are sitting in their houses and cannot get a care package after having been assessed or are on waiting lists for assessment.

As usual, the minister and the SNP Government say that the answer is to set up a national care service, but I remind Kevin Stewart and the Government that when the Auditor General, Stephen Boyle, appeared at the Public Audit Committee some weeks ago, he was very clear that some things cannot wait for the establishment of a national care service.

Will the member give way?

I will give way in a minute.

I am clear that we cannot wait years to address the appalling terms and conditions of the workers in the private sector who are delivering a public service. We are talking about years: if the Government introduced a bill before summer recess, whatever we came up with would take years to pass and implement. This cannot wait.

We are not going to wait until the establishment of the national care service to make progress on pay and terms and conditions. That is why I will continue to talk to COSLA, the unions and other partners, to see what progress we can make on that front.

The whole point is that there are two sets of workers who are delivering a valuable public service to vulnerable people, but the pay and terms and conditions of one set are completely different from those of the other set. Social carers, who are mostly women, are putting in eight-hour shifts but finding that they are paid for five hours, because they are not paid for the travel time between clients. That is because councils contract out those services. In effect, what we have in Scotland is social care on the cheap.

I acknowledge the issue to do with employment law powers, and I would support our looking at that, but you do not need those powers to address the problem. That is a fallacy that you continually put across. You have the powers, in Scotland, right now, to say to every local authority in the country—

Through the chair, please, Mr Rowley.

Sorry.

Mr Stewart and the Government have the powers right now. They could fix the issue tomorrow by putting resources into health and social care. They cannot wait year after year. This is fixable, and it is fixable now.

Paul McLennan talked about a national care service in terms that are similar to those used when people talk about the creation of the national health service, but the SNP amendment talks about “ethical commissioning”. Let us get rid of commissioning. What about not-for-profit public services, delivered free at the point of need? When the public in Scotland get their heads round what the SNP is proposing—a privatised care service that will not work—the SNP will be in for a shock.

I call Christine Grahame, who will be the final speaker in the open debate.

15:47  

At this late stage in the debate, it is obvious that I will reprise some of the arguments that other members have made.

As other members have done, I whole-heartedly pay tribute to and thank all carers, professional, paid and unpaid. Their commitment to the people for whom they care, and the kindness—an essential—with which they deliver care must never be overlooked or underestimated.

On the Labour motion, Covid has indeed exposed failings and deficiencies right across the care sector and particularly in the care home sector. Reform is now a necessity. Hence the Scottish Government’s commitment to a national care service—but I agree with members that that is for the future; we must face the here and now.

First, on recruitment, at least two factors are in operation: Brexit, which the Labour motion sidestepped; and pay levels. In the public sector, the Scottish Government can take action and has done so. In the past year, adult social care workers in commissioned services in Scotland had their minimum hourly rate increased by more than 10 per cent, to £10.50 an hour. That is the public sector.

On the private sector, I am sympathetic to Alex Rowley’s points—and I heard what he said about employment legislation, which I hope means that he thinks that powers in that regard should come to the Scottish Parliament—but we have no control over the private sector and its contracts, terms and conditions. All that we can do is try to persuade.

The Scottish Government tops up the wages of care workers in the private sector. The truth is that there is nothing to stop it doing that now in relation to mileage rates.

I am a socialist, like Jackie Baillie, and I want her to take on board this fact: I do not like putting money into the private sector to beef up profits and returns for shareholders. That is the issue: the private sector is still profiting from looking after people; that is not what I want.

We cannot interfere with companies’ contracts. I welcome a movement towards employment law powers coming here.

I must move on, given the short time that I have—I knew that this would happen. Pay is not the only issue for people in the care sector. I want there to be career progression, so that individuals who wish to transition from care to the nursing profession can do so. According to Queen Margaret University, there can be direct entry into nursing, with accelerated entry into a master of nursing degree in year 2, if the individual meets certain requirements. I am not saying for one moment that one profession is superior to the other; they are different but complementary. However, that allows people to see, if they wish, career progression, which is important to all of us.

On the crisis that we are in, I do not know what planet Sandesh Gulhane is on: the governor of the Bank of England has referred to “apocalyptic” food prices, and the governor of the Bank of England is not known for hyperbole. An “apocalyptic” rise in the cost of living touches more on people who are stuck at home, whether as paid carers or unpaid carers, who may have ventilators and who will have heating, laundry and everything else to deal with, including enormous difficulties with prices, so—

Will the member give way?

I am in my last minute.

We need an emergency budget here and now to deal with those factors. Tinkering around the edges is not good enough.

I say finally to members on the Labour benches that we are mitigating all the time for a Tory Government with only six MPs elected to Westminster.

I have had enough of mitigating—we have seen £770 million go towards mitigating so far this year. I do not like to choose between the worthy and the less worthy. We should not have to do that. We should be independent, deal with these issues here and now, deal with our economy, have a proper benefits system and never, ever have to suffer Tory austerity again.

We now move to the closing speeches. I am disappointed to note that Alex Cole-Hamilton, who participated in the debate earlier, is not in his seat. We will expect an explanation for that.

15:51  

I am pleased to have the opportunity to close the debate on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. We have heard some very good and frank contributions in the debate, and we have heard the contribution from Mr McLennan.

As many members have done, I also want to express my tremendous gratitude to everyone in the social care system and to thank them for everything that they have done throughout the pandemic and everything that they will go on to do.

I also thank those unpaid carers of all ages who, as Alex Cole-Hamilton said—and I see that he has now resumed his seat—provide an unquantifiable level of support in Scotland. Some of those carers are very young and many are over 65. They are unsung heroes and they need our support.

A recent report from Audit Scotland paints a picture of a social care service in crisis in Scotland. Staff are

“not adequately valued, engaged, or rewarded”

and, as Jackie Baillie said, it is simply unacceptable that some are now subsidising their employers. It is now an industry that is undermined by long hours, low pay and poor recognition. The situation has been made worse as a result of the global cost of living crisis. That, in turn, is contributing to

“recruitment difficulties, rising sickness absence and high vacancy levels.”

Ultimately, that puts the people who require care services at risk.

As Alex Rowley said, urgent action is required to address the needs of carers and to address social care problems that are pushing the industry towards disintegration and collapse, but what is the SNP Government’s proposed solution? It is to create a national care service, which, according to COSLA, amounts to an attack on localism and, to judge by Mr Stewart’s remarks today, will also amount to an attack on private sector providers. Make no mistake—the SNP is providing sticking plasters today and it will be rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic tomorrow, because past experience shows us that centralisation can be costly and chaotic and will put additional pressures on hard-pressed carers.

Instead of pressing ahead with that bureaucratic overhaul of services, the SNP should introduce reforms now and let the record funding that it has received from the UK Government flow towards Scotland’s councils. However, according to COSLA, local government revenue funding has decreased by 20 per cent in real terms between 2013 and 2022. Labour calls for the removal of non-residential care charges. That is a laudable goal, but it is something that the SNP would need to fund in order to replace those lost revenues for councils.

The policy framework on charging for social care support at home is not currently accessible. It is far from transparent, it is far from fair and it is far from equitable.

Today’s debate has been instructive in helping us to understand the scale of the problems in our care service, but the SNP’s amendment is anything but helpful. Once again, Mr Stewart seeks to pass the buck. The SNP does what it always does: dodge responsibility for the problems of recruitment and retention and the care crisis in Scotland.

Will the member take an intervention?

No, I will not give way.

In this issue and so many others, the Government adopts a cynical strategy—an ABC approach: A for “abdicate responsibility”, B for “blame Brexit” and C for “say Covid is the cause”. However, up and down the country, carers and care workers can see through that. They know that the problems of recruitment, retention, staff burnout and the postcode lottery in social care pre-date the pandemic. Ministers repeatedly ignored the concerns of those who are working in the care sector and of the army of unpaid carers. This is a crisis for which the SNP—and the SNP alone—is to blame. The Government had a decade to fix the roof when the sun was shining, and it systematically failed to do so. That is why I encourage colleagues to support the Conservative motion this evening.

15:55  

Those who work in the care profession and unpaid carers can see through the Tory spin, because at the heart of the difficulties that we have throughout our islands is the fact that we have an impotent Prime Minister and chancellor who are unable to fix the cost of living crisis, when other countries have stepped up to the plate to do so.

Will the member take an intervention?

I will listen to what Mr Hoy has to say.

The minister suggested that the UK Government is impotent. Might I hear him say how many Scots will pay a lower amount of national insurance after the chancellor’s cut comes into effect in a few months’ time?

A huge amount of Scots are paying much more in national insurance and will be paying much more for petrol, electricity, gas and food shopping because the country has an impotent Tory Prime Minister and chancellor who are unable to do what other countries are doing and help the poorest in society through the tough times. The other interesting point in Mr Hoy’s closing speech was that he called care an “industry”. It is not an industry: it is about supporting and caring for our most vulnerable—not an industry at all.

I will take umbrage with members on the Tory benches about pay. Tory members have said that we should be paying more. The Government will make the effort to ensure that we do better in pay and conditions as we move forward. However, we pay more in Scotland than they do south of the border and more than they do in Labour-controlled Wales. When will the Tories recognise that we could do even more if the Tory chancellor loosened the purse strings and paid folks south of the border a decent rate, and we gained the consequentials from that? I will take no hypocrisy from the members on the Tory benches about that issue.

I will share some of the actions that we have taken with the chamber. We have waived the cost of protecting vulnerable groups checks and Scottish Social Services Council registration. We have funded myjobscotland recruitment to try to bring more folk into the social care profession—not industry. We will continue to do all that we can to try to fill those vacancies.

Let us look at what we have been up against: Brexit. One service that I spoke to has lost 40 per cent of its workforce because of Brexit—yet another Tory failure. We believe that Scotland’s social care services benefit greatly from staff from across the world joining our workforce through international recruitment. Shame on the Tories for blocking those folk from our islands. In a number of other areas, we are ahead of other parts of the country, and we would always want to be in a position to do more.

Let us look at some of the things that we are doing differently. We uplifted the carers allowance supplement by 6 per cent, along with other benefits. That represents an investment of £4.6 million in 2022-23 that is aimed at supporting those on low incomes, particularly families and unpaid carers, who are suffering at this moment.

Will the member take an intervention?

The minister is just about to conclude, because he is already over his time.

In that case, I will conclude with these points. We will continue to do our utmost for our social care workforce—for the social care profession—and for unpaid carers in our country.

Lastly, the Labour Party and the SNP agree on a number of things. One of the key elements that Labour members seem to forget is that we are bound by a restriction on our powers. They would have been better attacking the Tories today rather than the Scottish Government.

16:00  

We have heard today the reality of how carers are coping in these immensely difficult times. Of course, Labour members put on record our thanks to carers, both paid and unpaid, up and down our country, who are supporting people day in and day out, especially during this cost of living crisis.

However, it is clear that carers are being let down. In the absence of a social care system that properly supports the needs of everybody, unpaid carers in particular have had to step up where this Government has simply failed.

From the estimates of third sector organisations, we know that, during lockdown, up to an additional 400,000 Scots took on unpaid caring roles, bringing the number of unpaid carers in Scotland to more than 1 million. The impacts of that have been devastating. Two thirds of carers have reported acute worsening of their mental health and wellbeing due to the lack of support. We heard that articulated by many colleagues in the debate, including Alex Cole-Hamilton.

Although the pandemic has brought the problems to the fore, they are by no means new. We know that unpaid carers, care workers and people with diverse and complex care needs have been let down over the 15 years of this SNP Government, and the problem has now reached breaking point with the twin challenges of the pandemic and the worst cost of living crisis in memory, which was highlighted by many colleagues this afternoon, and by my colleague Carol Mochan in particular.

The SNP has had 15 years to show our social care workforce how valued it is. However, now, as the NHS struggles to remobilise, the SNP Government has failed to show that it recognises the crucial importance of the work of our social care services and the unparalleled work that paid and unpaid carers do.

We have heard a shopping list of strategies and reviews from the minister today. The national care service proposals have once again been trumpeted as the silver bullet. However, the creation of that service is four years down the road, so it cannot be an excuse for delaying reforms and improvements to care now. Many of the recommendations that were identified in the Feeley report are yet to be delivered. The minister and his colleagues are using their vision of a national care service—a vision that we have concerns about—as an excuse for doing nothing now, and that is unacceptable.

The minister is, of course, quick to pin the failure to fix the staffing crisis in social care on Brexit. However, let us be clear: Brexit did not cause the staffing crisis in social care; it exposed and exacerbated a crisis that was driven by the SNP’s failure to acknowledge low wages and poor terms and conditions.

The SNP amendment talks about the UK Government delivering an emergency budget. Let us be crystal clear: no party has done more to challenge this out-of-touch Tory Government than the Labour Party. Again, however, the SNP wants to pass the buck. It took the SNP months, and two attempts, to join Labour in the division lobbies and vote for a windfall tax that would put money in the pockets of care workers.

The First Minister has the power to support carers and care workers, but she refuses to do more. If the Greens decide today to commit themselves to supporting the SNP’s amendment, that will be a complete betrayal of the manifesto that they stood on. They promised to give social care workers a £15-an-hour wage and then rolled that back once the First Minister came calling. At decision time, the Labour Party will be clear about supporting using the powers of this Parliament to make a real difference for carers.

The Conservatives have today said that they have concern for carers, but their amendment fails to propose solutions that would help carers, such as calling for an immediate rise to £12 an hour for care workers. Further, once again, last night they showed their true colours in the House of Commons when they would not support our moves for a windfall tax.

As the pressure on our social care services continues to intensify, the burnout of carers and care workers is increasing. We are seeing hostile work practices and one in five workers currently on insecure or temporary contracts, and an additional 15 per cent of staff regularly work unpaid overtime. Without a fresh approach to the training, retention and proper pay of staff, we risk losing our skilled social care workforce altogether.

Scottish Labour has pledged to fight for a fair wage for all paid care staff as well as for quality training opportunities. We must see the waiver of the Scottish social services council registration fee become permanent.

It is clear that we must do more to support workers in travelling to work and between workplaces, and that we must do something on mileage.

I ask Gillian Martin what the point of Parliament is if we do not use the powers of this place to protect people such as the carers she speaks about. Before the debate today, along with my colleague Jackie Baillie, I met unpaid carers who are struggling day after day with the cost of living crisis. The families I met told me that their household bills have risen by £4,000, which is quite frankly unthinkable and frightening. Unpaid carers are not receiving the support that they need to ensure that they can keep their homes warm and their families safe and secure.

It is clear that, across the chamber, we must show that we value unpaid carers and care staff. Scottish Labour will always be on their side. I call on the chamber to back our motion tonight.

That concludes the debate on supporting carers during the cost of living crisis. I will allow a moment or two before moving to the next item of business.