A “GROUND-BREAKING” partnership has been started to repurpose empty homes in Argyll and Bute for health and social care workers.

The region is currently facing staff shortages of essential workers in more remote areas, which this project aims to address by providing affordable housing.

The two-year scheme is funded by the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership and Argyll and Bute Health & Social Care Partnership, administered by Argyll and Bute Council.

The National:

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership has spent years helping owners in repurposing or selling their empty homes. There are estimated to be more than 42,000 long-term empty homes in Scotland.

Shaheena Din, national project manager at Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, said: “We are truly excited to be launching a ground-breaking project that will both tackle the issue of empty homes in Argyll and Bute, and provide much-needed housing for remote essential workers.

“Innovation and partnership must be at the heart of addressing Scotland’s housing challenges and we are delighted to have come together as a partnership with common goals.

“Scotland’s housing minister Paul McLennan recently emphasised that good quality affordable housing is essential to attract and retain people in rural communities, particularly in areas where key workers are needed, and we hope this partnership will prove to be one example of how this can be achieved.”

With the first-of-its-kind project comes a new council role of “Empty Homes Project Officer”.

They will work with partners and private empty homes owners in areas with staff shortages due to a lack of affordable housing. The officer will bring 20 homes into use under the two-year plan as the council rebuilds its health and social care network.

Argyll and Bute is Scotland’s third most sparsely populated constituency, and with around half of its communities living in rural areas, these properties will be spread far and wide.

James Gow, head of finance for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), said: “Argyll and Bute HSCP is delighted to be working in partnership with the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership and Argyll and Bute Council to bring empty homes back into use.

“The availability of suitable housing is often perceived to be a barrier to people relocating to enjoy the benefits of living and working in Argyll and Bute. This project will help us recruit the staff we need to continue to provide essential health and social care services.”

Councillor Robin Currie, leader of Argyll and Bute Council, said: “Argyll and Bute’s economic success is built on a growing population. We are committed to finding local housing solutions to help grow our population and Argyll and Bute’s economy.

“Working in partnership is key to this success and we are delighted to be working with our partners to identify housing solutions that will ultimately benefit public services.”


RURAL communities often lack immediate access to health and social care, with services like hospitals and care homes not always within reach.

Therefore, many receive home care from the council, but in recent years the numbers of home care workers has been falling.

Home carers must drive long distances to reach many of their clients, especially in rural communities where houses can be miles apart.

On Mull, one of the many islands in Argyll and Bute, home care workers have been under a lot of pressure as their numbers dwindle.

Since the pandemic, there have not been enough staff to fully cover all the clients on the island, leaving current staff to work longer hours than they are contracted to.

One of these home carers is Louise Thomas, who has been a carer on Mull for 17 years.

Louise said: “Shortages of staff have affected the workload on current staff by putting pressure on them to work more hours themselves, and this can become draining mentally and physically.

“This has also affected staff where they have left their home care positions to seek less stressful jobs.

“I personally have withdrawn from a full-time contract as an Argyll and Bute carer four years ago, and now work as a member of bank staff. For the last 12 months I have worked for myself providing private respite care.

“This has taken away a lot of the stress as I am not constantly asked to work extra shifts to be a good carer.

“You have to care and when someone asks you to work extra shifts, you feel you cannot say no because vulnerable people will be left without the support they need, and once you have finished your work and go home you cannot switch off straight away.

“You are constantly thinking about your clients and wishing you could do more for them.”

But with more carers available in the area, Louise thinks this stress and lack of time away from the job will ease up. She continued: “I think providing housing for staff would definitely help the situation, but I believe there is a shortage throughout the country for care staff and I think better pay and conditions would be a good incentive also.”