Further concerns are emerging about the £500 pandemic ‘thank you’ payment promised to health and care staff by Nicola Sturgeon. Third sector learning disability nurses and addiction support workers who have gone the “extra mile” during the pandemic will not get the payment because they are not employed by the NHS, a charity has warned.
This is despite a promise that the payment, first announced in November by the First Minister at the SNP conference, would be for “all staff” within the NHS, primary care, social care and other settings. But Quarriers, which employs more than 1,600 people across the country, says some its staff working on the frontline have been deemed ineligible.
UNISON has described the decision as “inexplicable”.
Quarriers Chief Executive Ron Culley said:
“In Scotland all health and social care workers are equal – it’s just that some are more equal than others. The unfairness of the £500 bonus scheme continues to rankle, and I for one share the frustrations. How can the Scottish government recognise the efforts of a drug and alcohol worker in the NHS but not in Quarriers?
“How can the Scottish government recognise the efforts of a learning disability nurse in the NHS but not in Quarriers?”
Staff at the Quarriers’ Arrows Service in Elgin and the William Quarrier Scottish Epilepsy Centre have been affected by the row. The charity says that both services do not fall under the criteria set out by the Scottish government. It follows concerns about the scope of the initiative but also the impact it could have on low-paid workers who rely on benefits.
Last week it was claimed that agency nurses have been left “absolutely undervalued” because they were not included.
Scottish ministers have so far been unsuccessful in urging their UK counterparts to exempt the award from tax and benefits calculations.
Staff were given the option of delaying or splitting the £500 to give them time to consult the Department of Work & Pensions last month.
UNISON is calling on the Scottish government to reconsider its approach.
Branch Secretary Robin Taggart said:
“Our members working for Quarriers Arrows Service have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic delivering a service to some of the most vulnerable people in the North East of Scotland.
“We know that dependency on drugs and alcohol increased significantly following last year’s lockdown stretching the service’s capacity to the limit.
“Arrows staff were also having to deal with the fallout from the pandemic such as the rise in the numbers of people whose mental health was adversely affected.
“Which makes it all the more inexplicable that they have been excluded from this payment.
“We call on the Scottish Government to reflect on this obvious inequality and injustice and extend the ‘thank you’ payment to all frontline social care staff as they promised they would.”
By Henry Anderson