New staff joining the social care workforce are to have entry costs paid for by the Scottish Government until the end of March.
The scheme, which started on Friday, means Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) checks and Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) registration will now be funded to help encourage more staff into the profession.
The aim is to prevent “financial barriers” that may discourage people from applying for a career in care and to help address winter staffing pressures, Scotland’s Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart said.
Basic PVG checks cost £59 and SSSC registration costs between £25 and £80 depending on the role, according to Scottish Government figures.
Louise Gilmour, Scotland Secretary for trade union GMB, which has more than half a million members, said the Scottish Government’s latest effort to reverse staff shortages in the care sector is a “sticking plaster approach to tackling the crisis”.
Commenting on the scheme, she said: “It won’t recruit people into care when the basic value of the job remains so low, and it won’t stop existing staff leaving in their droves.
“And ultimately, the government is simply wavering the cost for registration fees to a regulatory framework the independent review into care found to need essential reform.
“The SSSC has been a mincing machine for the rights of low-paid workers and this hasn’t changed.”
The scheme, which is estimated to cost about £465,000, includes staff taking up direct care posts in adult social care, along with comparable roles in children’s social care services and the justice sector.
It will cover local authority, private and third sectors.
Social care minister Kevin Stewart said: “Care workers have been absolutely critical to our pandemic response, giving vulnerable people the care they need and avoiding further pressure falling on the NHS.
“This trial aims to assist easing winter pressures in this sector by removing any financial barriers that may stop people from applying for a rewarding career in care.
“There are significant pressures in social care due to high vacancy levels and increased demand.
“I hope this support will encourage those considering joining this vital workforce to go ahead and do so.
“We will continue to work closely with our partners to identify all possible ways we can assist the social care sector to aid recruitment and retention within the workforce at this critical time.”
Aberdeen South MP, Stephen Flynn added: “This is absolutely the right move from the Scottish Government which, alongside recent pay increases, shows that they are doing everything that they possibly can to support recruitment in our health and social care sector.
“However, the greatest challenge facing recruitment remains the hard-line immigration rules put in place by the UK Government as a result of Brexit.
“These rules mean that we simply cannot fill social care roles to the level that we once could and this has a subsequent impact upon bed occupancy in our hospitals.
“Scotland should have control over immigration so we can bring in the skilled labour that is required to support our health and social care sector otherwise we will always be fighting this issue with one hand tied behind our back.”