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Siu Index
July/August 2010 No 86

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 UK.

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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