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Thursday 6 May 2004

Failures are accepted but social work pressure must be recognised

UNISON, the union representing Scotland's social care staff, today (Thursday) commented on the Social Work Inspectors report on the Scottish Borders Social Work Department.

Mandy McDowall, UNISON's Regional Officer for the Borders, said: "The first response has to be that UNISON accepts that Social Work failed thisvulnerable adult and others, and that is something that we all deeply regret, but it is not the time to single out scapegoats. They were failed by many agencies and in Social Work the faults went right through the system - the Black report recognised this system failure and the consequent need to avoid blaming individuals.

"This has been acknowledged since the case and there has already been considerable action taken in Social Work - including implementing many of the recommendations of this report - such as reviewing all cases involving vulnerable adults and improving case recording and case review mechanisms. UNISON will be looking at the full report in detail and commits itself to work with the council the health board and the police to deliver any further changes necessary."

The union is clear that attacks on social workers either individually or collectively will not help improve the service.

"Social Workers do the job because they care about their clients." Said Linda Jackson, UNISON's Scottish Borders Branch Communications Officer.

"It is a job that involves pressure, and it has involved working short-staffed - something that can only increase the chance of this type of failure. But increasing the pressure by political or other attacks only serves to exacerbate the staffing crisis - making it less likely that people will choose to become social workers - and increasing that chance of failure.

"We all need to accept that social workers work with risk all the time - no amount of resources or procedural changes can absolutely guarantee that people will not be abused, although we always want to deliver the best service we can. It is time that politicians and some elements of the media recognised that, and delivered the back-up that diminishes that risk"

Proposals to look more seriously at the role of social work, and to change the law on the protection of vulnerable adults will be cautiously welcomed by the social work workforce.

Linda Jackson said "Whilst we will need to look at the proposed legislation, it is certainly the case that anything that allows social workers to take emergency action in cases involving vulnerable adults would be welcome. Indeed we asked for this at the time of the previous legislation. We have also been asking for sometime for a review into social work - so this too could be welcome."

ENDS

For Further Information Please Contact: Mandy McDowall, (Regional Officer - Borders) 0845 355 0845(w) 07973 931318(m) Linda Jackson, (Borders Br Communications Officer) 07900 468871(m) Edith Moody (Borders Br Chairperson) 01896 757839 (h) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)

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