PAYING the living wage is a necessity for one small, modern social care charity in Edinburgh, according to its chief executive.

A shortage of care workers in the capital means Visualise Scotland, which provides a range of services to people with physical and sensory impairments, learning disabilities and complex communication support needs, has an advantage when it comes to recruitment.

“It’s not the only thing, of course, but when you are small and not that well known, it helps you to attract new staff to work in your organisation,” said CEO Kate Wallace.

“It’s rewarding work but it can be challenging too. When you are trying to attract people to work in care it is important that this work is valued and pay is an important indicator of that.”

The care sector is going through a revolution in Scotland. Attempts are being made to professionalise it, with staff being required to have certain qualifications in order to be able to undertake certain roles.

“Caring for people who need help to live their lives as independently as possible is a huge responsibility, it’s a position of trust,” Wallace said. “It’s vital that we have staff who are respectful of their clients and who will strive to help them achieve whatever it is that they want to do.”

Some of the work carried out by Visualise is complex. It provides care and support to about 20 people living in Edinburgh and the Lothians, and most of its clients have multiple disabilities, learning disabilities and physical challenges, with a significant number of clients unable to use verbal communication.

It’s therefore seen as vital that staff have the appropriate qualifications and experience and that they are supported and valued in their roles. For Visualise, paying staff the living wage is a key component of what they offer.

“Care is important work and pay in the sector should reflect that,” Wallace said. “We are a small charity, we have no shareholders making profits. We try to make sure we look after our staff and that they are paid appropriately for the hugely important role they have. Edinburgh is an expensive place to live and we do our best to ensure we pay the highest wages the organisation can afford. It is important to our trustees and our managers. It helps that the City of Edinburgh Council understands the issue and has been working with service providers to encourage them to pay the living wage and have set their contract prices with this in mind.”

Visualise was formed as an action group in 1987 by a group of parents, carers and teachers of multi-disabled, visually impaired children from all over Scotland who attended residential schools in Edinburgh.

The charity’s first pioneering project for residential post-schooling in the community was successfully opened in the spring of 1992.

While Visualise expands the scope of its services, its primary focus is not on the number of people the charity supports but rather on the quality of care and support individuals receive.

There are now more than 800 employers in Scotland paying the real living wage of at least £8.45 per hour, which is significantly higher than the government minimum wage of £6.70 and the new minimum wage premium for over 25s of £7.50 per hour introduced last April.