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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

It's time to make the real Living Wage a reality for Scotland's voluntary sector workforce

Scotland’s voluntary sector is a major employer, employing over 135,000 people, around 5% of Scotland’s workforce and a third more people than the 100,000 staff employed in Scotland’s digital and technology sector.

This workforce makes a huge contribution to people and communities across Scotland, providing a diverse range of essential services and support including; childcare, social care, emergency support, support into employment, housing, and towards digital inclusion, and a huge range of advice services. The sector also undertakes vital medical and environmental research, runs most of Scotland’s theatres, museums, galleries, and sports clubs, and campaigns for change on a huge variety of issues.

Like people across Scotland, voluntary staff are struggling as inflation reaches record highs, creating a cost-of-living crisis. The voluntary workforce includes more women (64.5%), more part-time workers (37%), and more people with a disability (23%) than the public and private sectors. Women and people with a disability are at greater risk of living in poverty, an inequality that the Poverty Alliance found deepened during the pandemic.

As the cost-of-living crisis worsens, Fair Work for the Scottish voluntary sector’s workforce, including payment of the real Living Wage, must be a priority.

This year’s Living Wage Foundation report, All Work and Low Pay, found that 12.5% of jobs in the voluntary sector in Scotland pay below the real Living Wage. A figure that’s disappointing but unsurprising.

Change, however, may be on the horizon. SCVO support the Scottish Government’s plans for Scotland to become a Fair Work Nation by 2025, plans that include extending the Fair Work First criteria to include paying the Living Wage.

We believe that being a good employer matters to voluntary organisations and we understand that for many organisations, change cannot be achieved without additional resources. Years of underfunding, followed by Covid 19, and the running costs crisis, have put increasing strain on voluntary sector finances.

To support organisations to pay the Living Wage we need the Scottish Government to lead by example and to ensure that public grant funding and contracts include a Living Wage uplift. Over the last few months and in both Emergency Budget Responses, the Scottish Government has recognised the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on public sector staff and has taken action to provide wage uplifts, particularly for the lowest paid. The Scottish voluntary sector provides many essential services and support, yet despite this, action has not been taken to ensure voluntary sector staff can receive pay increases equal to their public sector counterparts.

Scotland’s voluntary sector workforce, like the sector itself, play an essential role in Scotland’s society and economy.

The essential services and support provided by voluntary sector staff across Scotland increasingly offer a lifeline to people, families, and communities as the cost-of-living crisis bites. That lifeline shouldn’t need to be extended to voluntary sector staff. Scottish Government, local government, and funders across Scotland need to do more to ensure that voluntary sector organisations have the support they need to pay the real Living Wage.

The upcoming publication of the Scottish Government's refreshed Fair Work Action Plan and the Scottish Budget are opportunities to take real action to create the funding security essential for a sustainable voluntary sector which can survive the running costs crisis, support people through the cost-of-living crisis, offer Fair Work, and deliver quality outcomes.

It's time to make the Scottish Government's Fair Work ambitions a reality and secure at least the real Living Wage for people across Scotland.

Last modified on 10 April 2024