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Date Thurs 16 June 2011

UNISON sounds alarm bells over cuts to secure units for vulnerable young people

UNISON Scotland is urging the Government to think again about its plans to cut funding to the country’s secure units for children.

The union, Scotland’s largest union in the community and voluntary sectors, said the move will hit some of the country’s most vulnerable young people and leave more than 250 dedicated staff facing the axe.

The Scottish Government is expected to announce tomorrow (Friday) that it will maintain contracts with only four of the country’s five voluntary sector-run secure units, with St Philip’s, in Plains, expected to have its ‘preferred bidder’ status withdrawn.

This would leave the unit – one of three units run by the Cora Foundation – and its 259 staff, almost certainly facing closure. It would also leave the 18 young men who reside in the unit facing an uncertain future.

This year is the first that the secure units have been asked to tender for the contracts as part of a government cost-cutting exercise. During a review of the secure unit estate, the Government outlined that only four of the five secure units would receive ‘preferred bidder’ status, which allows facilities to receive referrals from the courts and Children’s Panel.

The union is urging the Scottish Government to think again about the needs of these vulnerable young people and to restore funds to care for and support them properly.

Simon Macfarlane, regional organiser with UNISON, said: “These units are staffed by highly trained, committed and caring staff who offer unique support and care for vulnerable young people while maintaining community safety.

"If the Justice Secretary is serious about wanting to reduce the number of young people, particularly men, that end up in Scotland’s prisons then it doesn’t make any sense to cut a unit that has the expertise and experience to work with vulnerable and challenging young people and help them back on the right track.

“Our members work hard to provide these services and we are calling on the Scottish Government to think again and to put the needs of these vulnerable young people first. We want the Government to discuss a way forward which ensures that the skills and expertise of these staff are not lost and that this vital service is maintained.”

ENDS

Notes to editors There are seven secure units in Scotland, two of which are run by local authorities in Dundee and Edinburgh. The remaining five – St Mary’s Kenmure in Bishopbriggs; Good Shepherd in Bishopton; St Philip’s in Plains, North Lanarkshire; Kibble in Paisley; and Rossie in Montrose – are run by voluntary organisations. St Philip’s provides secure, residential and education facilities for young men.

While all three types of care are provided at the St Philip’s campus, a withdrawal of funding for the secure unit will leave St Philip’s facing a cross-campus closure. St Philip’s is run by a voluntary board of managers and is a registered charity. It is one of three units – together with St Mary’s Kenmure and the Good Shepherd – that are run by voluntary organisation the Cora Foundation.

In January, St. Phillip’s was inspected and was awarded ‘very good’ in both the areas inspected: Quality of Care and Support; and Quality of Management and Leadership.

For further information contact Simon Macfarlane on 07703 194 132, or Trisha Hamilton on 0141 342 2877 / 07939 478 461. Or visit our website at www.unison-scotland.org.uk

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