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Date: Thurs 15 September 2011

‘Better care, not cheaper care’ – the Scottish Government must aim higher for social care, says UNISON

UNISON, Scotland’s largest union in public services, says the Scottish Government must take responsibility for social care procurement and ensure the focus is on better care, not cheaper care.

The union says current guidance fails to address vital workforce issues and ignores the Scottish Government’s own statutory rules that are designed to end the two-tier workforce.

UNISON’s call comes on the day (Thursday, September 15) of a Scottish parliamentary debate on social care procurement. UNISON says there is an urgent need to review the government’s outdated guidance on social care procurement or face a race to the bottom in service delivery.

The guidelines, issued by the Scottish Government in September 2010, outline procurement as a way of generating efficiency savings. The guidance also states the need for a ‘mixed economy’ in care across in-house, third and private sector providers.

UNISON says the Scottish Government must aim higher and says the key to effective service reform is to put the user at the heart of the process to ensure all care packages reflect the needs of each individual.

That requires retaining services in-house and involving users and staff in the redesign of services.

One of the current pressures on social care procurement budgets is the drive towards personalisation and self-directed support. While UNSION recognises the role of self-directed support, it must go hand-in-hand with appropriate services and resources for those who choose not to take this option, and must not be used as an excuse to cut costs.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said: “We need a government that’s committed to raising the standards in care and that means a focus on quality, not cost. “Current guidance on the procurement of social care focuses on squeezing more provision from falling budgets – which can only lead to a race to the bottom in service delivery. There’s already evidence of local authorities ‘outsourcing’ budget cuts, with the privatisation that entails, to voluntary sector and charitable bodies.

“The Scottish Government has to urgently review its procurement procedures and put firm guidelines in place to end this practice. “Major expenditure savings are not compatible with maintaining and improving the quality of care – the first choice should always be better care, not cheaper care.”

Union members from Quarriers – one of Scotland’s largest social care charities – who are facing pay cuts of up to 23 per cent, as well as other attacks on their terms and conditions, will by lobbying parliament today and calling on politicians to raise the standards for social care services and put care before cost.

Stephen Brown, chair of UNISON’s Community Service Group and branch secretary of UNISON’s Quarriers branch, said: “We’re currently witnessing massive attacks on our members who work in care provision with our members in Quarriers facing savage cuts to their pay and conditions. “Politicians of all parties should be paying close attention to what’s happening across the care sector and asking themselves if they want to see the future of social care being about profits or people.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For more information see our briefing on the procurement of social care services at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/MSPBriefing_SocialCareProcurement_Sep2011.pdf

2. Quarriers staff will be lobbying the Scottish Parliament today (Thursday, September 15). Details of the proposed cuts, including impact statements from members, can be found at www.quarriersunison.org.uk/15941_69001.4039.htm

3. Current social care procurement guidance talks of the sharing of risk. This is more difficult with private providers and adds a level of unpredictability to the sector that is not present in in-house delivery. The private sector is, by definition, only interested in providing care where there is profit to be made. This lends itself to a position where ‘straightforward’ parts of social care can be ‘cherry-picked’ for privatisation, while the public sector deals with services for those needing more complex care. For more detailed examples, please see our briefing on the procurement of social care services at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/MSPBriefing_SocialCareProcurement_Sep2011.pdf

For more information contact Trisha Hamilton, communications officer, on 07939 478 461, Dave Watson on 07958 122 409, or Stephen Brown on 07584 503 858. Or visit our website at www.unison-scotland.org.uk

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