UNISON - Standing up for social care
By Kate Ramsden
Scotland’s Social Work Issues Group (SWIG) has taken a
key role in highlighting the issues which face our members
in social work and social care and in moving social care
up the political agenda both in Scotland and across the
In June, Stephen Smellie, chair of SWIG urged social work
service leaders to speak out about the impact of spending
cuts on the most vulnerable.
Taking part on a panel looking at the future of personal
and social care at a Holyrood Conference in Edinburgh on
Personal and Social Care Provision, Stephen warned that
major cuts in social care spending are being widely portrayed
as inevitable, yet the consequences would be drastic.
He called on those who wish to lead the sector to be vociferous
in explaining the very real consequences of cuts, adding
that in the private sector many of our members already struggle
on wage rates barely above the minimum wage, with no guaranteed
hours of work, while many voluntary sector managers are
telling members that terms and conditions will be cut so
they can compete for contracts.
“They should be standing up for quality services and warning
what could happen if deep cuts are made,” said Stephen.
Meantime, Scottish delegates spoke in key debates on social
work at both Local Government and Delegate Conference, both
of which adopted wide ranging strategies to campaign for
increased investment in social care to ensure quality services
and a well trained and rewarded workforce.
Edinburgh’s John Stevenson told of the work between UNISONScotland
and the Scottish Personal Assistants Employers Network.
He warned that personalisation and direct payments are sold
as liberating services for users to get the responsive services
they need when they want them.
“However, the reality is an inability to strategically
plan services, the spectre of services being provided on
the cheap and of care being forced back on families, usually
women; of an unregulated workforce, without training structures,
poor employment rights, if any, and isolated and unorganized,”
he said, calling on the union to take up the challenge of
organising personal assistants.
Local Government Conference also threw its weight behind
a campaign for proper resources to ensure that social work
staff can provide quality services to the most vulnerable
in our communities.
Kate Ramsden, Aberdeenshire, urged other regions to set
up their own Social Work Issues Groups highlighting the
importance of involving activists who are front-line staff
from across the range of social work services and Glasgow’s
Ian Leech drew attention to Scotland’s social work publications
as practical examples of supporting the workforce
A packed fringe meeting “Social Work under pressure: time
to take control” heard of the pressures which staff face
across the UK and what UNISON is doing to improve working
conditions and the image of social work in the media and
the eyes of the public.
John Stevenson presented SWIG’s guide on supervision, part
of the Supervision and Workload Management negotiating tool.
“The key to our strategy is that you cannot have successful
supervision without effective workload management. They
are different but part of the same process”, said John.
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