AUTISTIC people who require round-the-clock assistance could ultimately lose support because of the Scottish Government’s paltry pay hike for social care staff, a leading charity has warned.

In a letter to Deputy First Minister John Swinney, and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, Dorry McLaughlin, the CEO of Scottish Autism said that her organisation is “currently facing a significant crisis.”

This is, in part, because they “continue to haemorrhage colleagues, who are leaving us to move on to better paying roles, often within the NHS and local government.”

Currently, the minimum rate of pay for adult social care workers is £10.50 per hour. 

In last month’s budget, Mr Swinney announced that it would rise to £10.90 in April.

The Deputy First Minister said this would cost the government around £100 million.

“Social care is vital work, and it is important that people on the front line are supported,” he told MSPs.

READ MORE: John Swinney cuts £400m from health and care budget as part of £615m extra savings

However, the 3.8 per cent pay rise is far below the average 7.5% that has been offered to NHS staff and the 5% offered to most local authority workers.

The problems for Scottish Autism are stark. 

The charity provides supported living services across Scotland, offering up to 24 hour care and support in people’s homes to try and help them live as autonomous a life as possible. That can often mean two staff covering each shift, with three shifts each day.

A shortage of workers has already forced the charity to close down its Blue Central day service in Dunfermline so that it can redeploy staff to the 24/7 housing support services.

This was despite the charity bringing in costly agency staff to try and help fill the gaps.

READ MORE: Scots children waiting upwards of four years for autism assessment, figures show

In her letter, Ms McLaughlin told the ministers: “There is nowhere for our supported individuals to go, were we to be faced with the decision to close down a service. 

“If we are not able to offer the services to our supported individuals, I do not see any evidence of capacity within local government to provide a similar nature or calibre of service.”

She said that for the Scottish Government to deliver on their promise of “parity of esteem” between social care staff and healthcare workers, they needed to reconsider their pay settlement as a matter of urgency.

“We are losing people to three main destinations, non-caring roles, agency roles, and NHS local authority social care roles. The rationale for this is simple. 

“All of these destinations offer a higher pay per hour than our commissioning fees will enable us to offer. 

“The differential is measured in pounds, not pence. 

“And without appropriate resourcing and prioritisation from the Scottish Government, we see no indication that this will close.”

Ms McLaughlin said the Scottish Government's undervaluing of staff was "by extension, undervaluing [autistic] individuals within our society."

Labour’s Paul O'Kane said the SNP government was “undermining and undervaluing the social care sector at every turn.”

He added: "This dismal pay increase amounts to a real terms cut for staff and it has knock-on effects for the entire sector.

 "The SNP's poor planning has put patient and staff safety at risk. It is high time workers get a fair pay rise."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the government had been “asleep at the wheel when it comes to social care.”  

He added: “Organisations like Scottish Autism offer highly specialist care to some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.

"We need fair pay for all social care staff and a review of current government recruitment campaigns. If that doesn’t happen soon, vital services could close their doors.”

READ MORE: Warning care homes may be unable to provide extra NHS beds

Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart said the sector had been hit “by a triple whammy of Brexit, which has impacted staffing, the pandemic and high energy and inflation costs.”

He added: “The Scottish Government is committed to improving fair work practices across the social care sector and we will continue to work in partnership with our key stakeholders to improve the lives and experiences of the social care workforce.

“The Scottish Government has committed to continue to take all actions available within devolved responsibilities and budgets to address cost of living pressures.

"However, there has never been greater pressures on public finances, and we must balance the books while demand for government support and intervention are increasing. 

“From April 2023, adult social care workers delivering direct care in commissioned services will see their pay increase to a minimum of £10.90 per hour.

"This £100 million investment takes Scottish Government recurring funding for adult social care pay in commissioned services to £0.6 billion a year.”