Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland
Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland

5.12 Regulating the workforce

In Scotland the social care workforce is regulated by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC). The SSSC is responsible for registering people who work in social services in the public, voluntary and independent sectors, and for regulating their education and training. The SSSC is also the Sector Skills Council for social services in Scotland and has responsibility for developing maintaining and updating the National Occupational Standards (NOS). There are NOS that set benchmark statements of competence for Health and Social Care; Children's Care Learning and Development; Social Work; Leadership and Management for Care Services, and Commissioning, Procurement and Contracting in Care Services.

Other professions in Scotland are also regulated, and, like social services staff, workers are required to adhere to codes of professional practice and conduct. For example, nurses must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and teachers with the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

In contrast, most of the personal assistant (PA) workforce and employment agencies that employ PAs are not regulated. There are no agreed definitions of what a PA is and no mandatory professional standards, which may contribute to the role lacking recognition and visibility (Reid Howie Associates, 2010). Instead, the approach is one whereby PAs have voluntary access to training and career planning, and may be affiliated to organisations that provide these services. Employers can, as you can see in Section 4 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , also ask that their PA registers with the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

Activity 5.9 Codes of Practice

Timing: (30 minutes)

Social services workers and their employers in Scotland are required to adhere to the Scottish Social Services Council ’s Codes of Practice , to meet minimum requirements for continuous professional development and adhere to national care standards.

Should personal assistants be regulated? First watch this short video which tells you about the SSSC Codes of Practice:

Then have a look at the statements below, clicking on the blank cells to say whether you agree or disagree with each statement. Once you've done this, make notes in your learning log on what you think the arguments are for and against the regulation of the employment of PAs in Scotland.

This element is no longer supported and cannot be used.


There is no ‘right’ answer to this question – and you may have found that some of the statements could be used to support either agreement or disagreement with the question. Regulation of the PA workforce is a contentious issue, and one which concerned many of the individuals and organisations that responded to the consultation on the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) 2013 bill. The Act does not regulate PAs; a Scottish Parliament briefing on the Act explained that this was because of concerns that regulation could reduce service user choice and control:

Unlike the rest of the social care workforce, PAs are not regulated, either professionally through the Scottish Social Services Council or in terms of the service provided via the Care Inspectorate. The purpose is to allow the service user as much flexibility, control and responsibility as possible for their own support needs .

(Scottish Parliament, 2012, p. 42)

The government, however, still sees it as the responsibility of local authorities to monitor packages of care that involve PAs, and to provide assistance to 'supported people' when they are establishing contracts.

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) has recognised both sides to this argument. It has recommended that all PAs and employers should be made aware of the Codes of Practice and encouraged to adhere to them. The SSSC also promotes the use of National Occupational Standards which set out the required knowledge, understanding and behaviours of those who work with individuals who need support. They have recommended that PAs should have access to minimum induction training, covering matters like right-based care and guidance about professional boundaries. The SSSC has argued that complex care and care for very vulnerable people should be provided by workers who are regulated by the SSSC. However it has also not wished to 'limit personal choice unfairly’ by proposing regulation of all PAs (Scottish Social Services Council, 2012b, p. 2).

This discussion also links with debates around costs and employment rights. For example, Rummery et al. (2012) undertook research that indicated that service providers had concerns about the creation of:

…a two-tier workforce with (relatively unregulated, relatively unprotected and therefore cheaper) PAs on the one hand, and (more regulated, more protected and therefore more expensive) workers for care agencies and Local Authorities on the other.

(Rummery et al., 2012, p. 4)

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371