Briefing 70: Ethical Care Charter

b070_BargainingBrief_EthicalCareCharter-thumbnailKEY POINTS:

  • The Ethical Care Charter was developed to provide a better quality and dignified care service
    • This should be delivered by a stable, well paid and trained workforce
  • All Councils are urged to adopt the Charter and become Ethical Care Councils
  • All councils should insist that their contractors pay the Scottish Living Wage


The Ethical Care Charter was developed by UNISON at UK Level in 2012, following a survey into the working conditions of homecare workers across the UK and production of a subsequent report, “Time to Care”.

The survey responses showed “a committed but poorly paid and treated workforce which is doing its best to maintain good levels of quality care in a system that is in crisis”. The comments from workers illustrated the correlation between poor terms and conditions and lower standards of care for the clients they served.

Based on the responses to the questionnaire, the Ethical Care Charter was developed.

The intention behind the Charter was to seek to persuade councils to become Ethical Care Councils, commissioning services on the basis of the aims of the Charter. The principal objective was to provide for the quality and dignity of care by ensuring a more stable, well paid and trained workforce.

At the end of 2013 UNSON Scotland surveyed Scottish homecare workers and published its own report entitled, Scotland: It’s time to Care in February 2014.

We also found that the majority of workers believed that the service was not sufficient to meet the needs of the elderly and vulnerable people they cared for. This covered both the time they could spend with them and the quality of care they could give them.

Almost half (44%) said that they were limited to specific times on their visits; half were not paid travelling time for travelling between visits and 75% expected the situation to get worse.

Since the publication of the surveys UNISON branches have been urged to meet with their employers to ask them to sign up to the Charter and implement its objectives. However, to date there has been a limited take up of the Charter. Renfrewshire has formally signed the Charter, City of Edinburgh and Aberdeenshire are almost ready to adopt it and others have agreed in principle.

There are ongoing discussions with other councils who have adopted many of its provisions. The constraints have been uncertainty over the legal issues surrounding procurement and budget cuts.

In December 2015 the Scottish Labour Party launched its Commission for Provision of Quality Care in Scotland, which endorsed the Charter and championed many of its aims, especially the Scottish Living Wage for all care workers. The Scottish Government‟s new report: “Social Services in Scotland: A Shared Vision and Strategy for 2015-2020” also aims to promote “excellent social services delivered by a skilled and valued workforce”.

More in PDF briefing

Social Work Home | Publications