Page last updated at 12:50 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

'Mock funeral' is held over cuts

Mock funeral
A report said 160,000 people were being cared for by the voluntary sector

Two trade unions have staged a mock funeral at the Scottish Parliament to protest against the loss of voluntary sector jobs and services.

Members of Unite and Unison gathered outside Holyrood dressed in black and accompanied by a horse-drawn hearse.

The groups will later be joined by care charities in urging MSPs on the petitions committee to intervene.

They want the Scottish Government to give support to a "fair funding agreement".

The procession was organised by Unite the union and Unison, while a total of 65 groups, ranging from Children 1st to housing associations, will be represented at the petitions committee meeting later in the day.

MSPs will be told that 80% of Scotland's care services are being run at a loss and point out that most voluntary sector care workers are paid less than 8 an hour - 1 below the average public sector rate.

The third sector are crucial partners in delivering the more successful Scotland we all want to see
Scottish Government spokesman

The protesters are calling on ministers to ensure voluntary organisations are paid a higher rate for their work.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "From our first day in office, the Scottish Government has been absolutely clear that the third sector are crucial partners in delivering the more successful Scotland we all want to see.

"In the current economic climate, the sector's ability to go beyond the reach of the public sector and help groups and individuals who need our support is even more important.

Marching protesters
The protesters want to be paid a higher rate for their work

"That is why we have increased funding for the sector by 37% - in the process supporting new developments like the Scottish Investment Fund and the Enterprising Third Sector Action Plan.

"And we have set up a Third Sector Task Group which is looking at a wide range of issues to ensure the success of the third sector.

"By combining both large increases in funding with real action, we are ensuring the third sector will be able to continue to make a massive difference in communities across Scotland, helping households through the current difficulties and delivering our economic recovery programme".

'Unsustainable'

The community care action comes after a report by Unite claimed that about 160,000 people were being looked after by the voluntary sector in Scotland, a third of all publicly-funded care.

Roz Foyer, Unite's senior regional organiser and author of the report, said: "Unite is clear that this climate of cuts within the sector has become unsustainable.

"We believe that the pay and conditions for workers in the sector has reached crisis point and that standards of care are being adversely affected.

"Something must be done to halt the erosion of these services - before it is too late."

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