Public Service Networks
Public service networks are an innovative idea designed to improve
service delivery in many specialisms by using Scottish-wide resources
to deliver local solutions. They would aim to ensure that services
that require expertise that might not be regularly available at
a local level can be delivered across Scotland. They involve specialists
liaising across authority boundaries to pool expertise, support
and indeed services directly to be delivered where and when required.
They will have many advantages, including:
- avoiding the iniquity of the ‘postcode' determining the level
of services to provide better services to users across Scotland,
- operating more quickly and effectively than reorganisations
or boundary changes,
- taking advantage of economies of scale and information technology,
- cross boundary trading and supplying services across the whole
of Scotland from local centres of excellence, and
- most importantly, retaining the public service ethos in delivering
public services across sectors.
Learning partnerships have been more of a success story. Government
funding for workplace based projects has shown steps in the right
direction. The welcome awards of trade union learning funds to
encourage the take-up of lifelong learning in many industries
and the promotion of skills training in new technology are useful.
UNISON Scotland is itself currently involved in a partnership
funded through the Executive with the Workers Education Association:
Learning @ Work However more needs to be done, both in ensuring
that those who need such opportunities get them, and in ensuring
that there are trainers and institutions available to provide
the necessary resources.
Almost all those who have been on a lifelong learning training
sing its praises, but there are many more who can't get a place.
Education and training should be available to staff at all levels
across our public services, to equip them to move into higher
skilled jobs within public services. It is also clear that we
should target new learning opportunities to areas with poor records
of employment and social inclusion.
We are concerned at the decrease in the Budget for Enterprise
and Lifelong Learning. We believe that the Executive should devote
adequate resources to training and development within the life
long learning agenda to support workers in all sectors.
We need to increase substantially the availability of training
and of trainers. It would be particularly useful if this work
was done in a joined-up way, continuing and expanding the work
done with Schools, FE Colleges and HE institutions and involving
the Careers Service, employers and trade unions.
UNISON recognises that equality legislation is a reserved matter.
But there is much a Scottish Parliament has been able to do. The
introduction of the Equality Strategy was an innovative and radical
initiative for which the Executive and Parliament deserve congratulations.
UNISON will use the strategy to work with and put pressure on
employers to implement improved equal rights in the workplace.
In addition we welcome the establishment of the Older People's
Unit in the Scottish Executive. This has already had some success
in giving older people a pathway to express views to the Government
and a method of galvanising and clarifying demands.
UNISON welcomes the Executive's commitment to Close the Gap on
equal pay. We will be calling on employers to undertake pay audits
to identify inequalities in pay structures and hope that employers
will work in partnership with us.
We call for a clear commitment to tackle domestic abuse. The
Scottish Executive's Preventing Violence against Women and the
National Domestic Abuse Strategy contain much good policy, but
it must be recognised that the need for funding and training continues
in order that good policies can be properly implemented.
UNISON has, to date, been impressed with the consultation and
discussion on access to public transport for disabled people.
Meetings and discussion have proved useful and positive and we
hope to continue to have an input to the process, particularly
through the Mobility and Access Committee (Scotland).
Hamid Rasheed, UNISON Member
working for Dundee City Council.
"We welcome the Executive's campaign to counter racism
in Scotland, and would like to see the campaign covering
all the sectors for which the Executive is directly responsible.
Equality must be a key element in all policy areas. The
threat of racist parties to use these elections, to peddle
their poison can only increase the problem. UNISON will
strongly campaign to challenge them."
The need for the Scottish Executive to tackle racism in Scotland
has been sadly underlined by the attacks on asylum-seekers and
on faith communities. The rise of racist groups like the BNP in
the political process in England and their threat to use the Scottish
Parliament elections to spread their racist hate also threaten
to increase the problem. UNISON welcomes the report of the Race
Equality Advisory Forum and encourages the Scottish Executive
to adopt the plans it has proposed. We welcome the Executive's
campaign to counter racism in Scotland but call for it to be expanded
in all its areas of responsibility and in particular to raise
the issue in mainstream policy areas, including in rural areas
where racism has traditionally been ignored.
The abolition of the pernicious and discriminatory Clause 2a
was an act of which our Scottish Parliament can be proud. Likewise
the incorporation of the Human Rights Act into Scottish legislation,
the establishment of an Equalities unit, and the stated aim of
equality proofing Scottish legislation have set a high standard.
Now that the framework to promote equalities has been put in
place, the principles underlying them must still be promoted.
Many of the improvements above have been driven by government
commitments to social inclusion and for social justice. It is
clear that these commitments can and will only be delivered by
public services (public, not-for-profit and voluntary sector).
It is also clear that unless resources are directed into ensuring
the ability of mainstream services to deliver the services that
social inclusion demands, then the effectiveness of any improvements
will always be at risk.
We want the government to recognise the central and crucial position
played by our public services in delivering a fairer and more
just society, and provide the resources to enable this.
21 Century Government
The use of new technology in the delivery of service is also
an area that the Government has started to address. However, there
appears to be a failure to recognise the resources required at
the ground level.
If the aim of ensuring the widest possible delivery of services
using information technology is to be successful, what will be
required is increasing and targeted training for staff whose job
it will be to deliver the services, and increasingly innovative
methods of delivery.
Installation of terminals in local government offices, libraries,
community education centres, schools - even in shopping centres,
supermarkets, post offices etc - should be increased. However
for this to be successful, the community buildings and the front-line
staff who deliver services, must be there. The reduction in the
number of public facilities must stop and the decline in opening
hours must be reversed. We must also recognise that people will
continue to want to speak to people directly as well as using
terminals, and retain face-to-face contact staff. If people cannot
get to grips with new technology, it will only ever be used by
those who are educated and affluent enough to have their own hardware.
An illustration where UNISON is active in this area is in Scotland's
booming call-centre provision, although the rise in this industry
is now levelling off. Some centres have fair and reasonable employment
practices whilst some are still mired in nineteenth century attitudes.
The UNISONScotland Call Centre Charter outlines six key principles
to raise standards in Scotland's call centres - fair pay, good
work-life balance, positive job-design, union recognition, proper
training and a pro-active safety structure. We need to promote
this type of high-quality employment standard throughout the area
of information technology, to ensure that Scotland establishes
a position of quality work and quality service.
UNISONScotland remains committed to the principle of a National
Health Service providing universal care free at the point of use.
We want to see the National Health Service in Scotland truly reflecting
UNISON welcomes the increasing trend for NHS staff to be brought
back in-house as both a recognition that this is a more effective
way to deliver a proper service, and a commitment to valuing all
the members of the healthcare team.
We also welcome the increasing investment in Scotland's health
services and in particular the increased focus in preventative
work and health promotion. However we think that more needs to
be done to address the underlying causes of ill-health and to
address the problems that affect service delivery.
In particular, new funds should be directed to providing front
line services rather than being funnelled into the pockets of
shareholders via expensive new PFI projects. We welcome the STUC/Scottish
Executive protocol on staffing and would urge health boards and
trusts to start to make this retrospectively effective on existing
PPP/PFI contracts. Public funding of new projects would provide
more flexibility in service delivery. It is not helpful to service
delivery for staff doing the same jobs to be employed by separate
employers and on different sets of conditions. Ring fencing of
PFI payments will mean that any future cuts in funding will have
to be carried disproportionately by other parts of the Service.
In addition partnership working in the NHS, whilst not always
delivering the aims sought for it, is a welcome commitment to
the healthcare team. UNISON would urge the clear adoption of the
principles of partnership working across the NHSiS and beyond.
UNISON thinks that it is vital also to tackle the issue of recruitment
and retention of staff. Skill shortages, especially amongst front
line staff are threatening service delivery. We must address the
shortage of training opportunities for clinical staff. This should
be done in the long term by increasing training opportunities
and tackling the low pay endemic in the NHS. Funded education
and training should also be available to staff at all levels in
the health service to equip them to move into higher skilled jobs.
Anne McGinley, UNISON member
and Health Visitor, Greater Glasgow Primary Care Health
"Increasing investment for the NHS should go to front-line
services, not into shareholders pockets. We must address
shortages amongst clinical staff with better pay and training
if we are to improve services. In particular we need to
offer incentives to bring staff back into the NHS, and remove
barriers that keep them out, like having to fund their own
training, and non-family-friendly working."
In the short term we should be offering incentives to non-practising
clinical staff to return to the NHS and eliminate the barrier
that forces health workers to pay for their own refresher courses
and work unpaid when they return to healthcare.
We welcome the decision to deliver free personal care to Scotland's
elderly. However it is clear that this initiative is under-resourced
and is heavily reliant on the traditionally poorly funded care
sector. We must back up public statements of support for community-based
health care with the financial resources. Terms and conditions
for voluntary-sector staff are lagging behind their role and responsibilities
and resources are often project based, time limited and insecure.
The Scottish Government must ensure that proper funding is available
both to resource community-based services and to ensure good employment
This should also apply to community-based mental health projects
in order both to improve accessibility to these services and to
increase local educational work combating the myths and stereotypes
affecting people suffering from mental illness.
UNISON supports the steps so far taken by the Scottish Government
to cut the number of Trusts, and its work to eliminate the internal
market in the Health Service. It is time now however for the next
step - the removal of the remaining Trusts, clear away the remnants
of the failed internal market and create fair and representative
Health Boards to run our NHSiS.
In order to increase the effectiveness of healthcare provision
and to stop the unfairness of ‘postcode prescribing' there should
be greater use of public service networks in clinical specialisms,
such as cancer, coronary care etc. This would both provide economies
of scale and allow better service delivery to the individual patient
- wherever in Scotland they live.
UNISON recognises the need for the various agencies of care to
be more co-ordinated in the delivery of their services. We support
ideas of crosscutting service provision and one-stop shops for
increased accessibility. However, the traditionally poorly funded
nature of such services and the drive towards specific forms of
delivery threaten to derail that potential.
In order to be successful, these plans must:
- Be properly resourced - ensuring that the services that are
needed are available when people want to access them
- Not dilute the democratic accountability and control of peoples'
- Ensure that the staff working in these areas from different
agencies and employers are secure in their employment and that
there is not a two- (or three!) tier workforce
- Ensure these projects aim to improve and co-ordinate service
delivery, and are not used as an excuse to cut services and
- Ensure that services continue to utilise fully qualified and
trained staff and not dilute staff professionalism.
Michelle Brankin, UNISON
member and Home Care Supervisor, South Lanarkshire Council.
"We cannot allow underfunding to derail the potential benefits
of co-ordinated care via the Joint Future Strategy. Services
must be properly resourced, and be provided by appropriately
qualified staff who are secure in their employment. The
new arrangements must improve and not cut service delivery."