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Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain condemns Holyrood's 'cold comfort' to aspiring care workers

By Tom Ramage

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MSP Edward Mountain
MSP Edward Mountain

Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain has challenged the Scottish Government to provide funding to help aspiring social care workers undertake their SVQ Level 2 qualifications.

But the children and young people minister, fellow Highland MSP Maree Todd, avoided making any funding commitments after Edward Mountain MSP pressed her on the issue during Portfolio Questions at the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Mountain raised the issue as part of his Time To Talk campaign which aims to enhance home care provision, reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing.

He has also launched a petition which can be found here

During Portfolio Questions, the MSP asked the Scottish Government "what its position is on funding level 2 of SVQ training for social care workers, given their role during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The minister replied: “We’re investing £0.9million this year to support third sector employers providing social care, specifically as a contribution towards the cost of putting care staff through SVQs. It’s for employers to make the decision on what level of SVQ care staff should undertake linked to their specific role.”

The minister: Maree Todd
The minister: Maree Todd

The minister added that the Scottish Government is also supporting the social care sector this coming winter with an additional £112 million, in addition to the £150 million of support made available at the outset of the pandemic.

The MSP then responded: “I thank the minister for that response, I’m not sure it answered the question nor even addressed the question, it just gave a whole list of things she thought was happening.”

Mr Mountain continued: “The fact is SVQ training costs at Level 2 over £1000 and that’s a barrier to stopping people getting into the care sector and we desperately need them. You fund SVQ3, why don’t you fund SVQ2?

The minister answered: “There are various funding streams available to support further and higher education. It’s a complex area and there will, for example, be some funding support streams available at SVQ3 level that aren’t available at SVQ2.

"But the purposes of funding SVQ2 courses would be considered further education, while SVQ level 3 courses would be considered higher education funding. Now the Scottish Government provides separate funding packages for FE and HE, with their own distinct rules for eligibility and different rates of support.

"Information regarding the levels of funding which are available to both FE and HE students is set out on the Student Information Scotland website.”

Following portfolio questions, Mr Mountain commented: “The minister’s answer is cold comfort to our aspiring social care workers.

“Funding might be available through your employer for SVQ2 training but what about those who want to undertake training but haven’t secured employment?

“The Scottish Government needs to find more than one way to encourage people to begin their career in the care sector. By not doing so, this shows a clear lack of understanding of real-life situations.

“I am passionate about improving the care sector in the Highlands, which is why I launched my Time to Talk campaign which aims to enhance home care provision, reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing.”

“For Time to Talk to be successful, we need the Scottish Government to reduce barriers of entry to those who would like a career in the care sector.”

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