Scottish MPs told technological innovation must not replace care staff

Care sector representative bodies have warned a group of MSPs that innovation and technological advancements should not be used to replace human beings when caring for people.

At an economy, jobs and fair work committee of the Scottish Parliament, Annie Gunner-Logan, director at Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland, told the MSPs: ‘I think there is huge potential for technology in our sector but I think the concern we have is that a commissioning authority will see technology as a replacement for people rather than an enhancement to services.’

Scottish Care chief executive Donald Macaskill, who was also speaking during the 90-minute session on the country’s economic performance, said while technology had potential it must not be used to monitor staff, and advancements would involve implementation costs, training and equipping the sector’s workforce.

He said: ‘There are many instances in which technological enabled care, which has been developed in Scotland, has been exported elsewhere. The problem is we need an appropriate balance. Technology cannot be used as a cheap mechanism to remove human presence.

‘We are all human beings, we are about human touch. Technology can certainly enable presence but it cannot replace it.’

The MSPs were told that, unlike other industries, if an innovation was introduced in a care home and did not work it would have an immediate effect on individuals and their care.

Macaskill called on organisations like Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway to focus on social care and not see the sector as ‘unworthy of intervention’.

He said: ‘One thing that annoys my members is that we know contracts are being handed back all the time. Whenever there is a failure because of a contract in social care we do not get a ministerial taskforce set up even if there are five times the number of workers impacted in that local community, particularly in rural communities. We need to change the language, alter the dialogue and see social care as worthy of intervention and enterprise as any other walk of life in Scotland.’

Referring to the acute problems in recruiting, Gunner-Logan said in 1992 a Scottish frontline worker in the social care sector was being paid £14,000. The salary now is £17,000.

‘That’s what has happened in care,’ she said. ‘In 1992, £14,000 was a really good salary and that is the value we placed on our employees in our sector back then, but not so much now I have to say.’