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STUC 2009

 

 


Cuts and tendering threaten social care - social workers warn

Kate Ramsden

"I am calling on all of you to support your colleagues in social work and to defend them whenever you hear them unfairly criticised.

"All of us, at some point in our lives may well need support from social services for ourselves or our loved ones, so this issue affects every one of us. We should all be fighting hard for quality services, for ourselves, and for those who do not have a voice."
Kate Ramsden
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By Chris Bartter and John Stevenson

The Scottish TUC today heard that Scotland’s social care system is on the brink of crisis. UNISON, the union representing the vast majority of Scotland’s social services staff, says that a combination of increasing demand and cuts in funding threaten further tragedies.

The situation is worsened by the use of tendering processes for home and residential care, that end up with low-cost companies taking over and driving down standards of care.

The union also blames the concordat between the Scottish Government and councils as a ‘straitjacket’.

UNISON delegate, Kate Ramsden, herself a social worker, said to the Congress, "Our members are social workers, home carers, residential and day care workers, occupational therapists, and a range of other staff in the statutory and voluntary sector. These are staff committed to the work they do, who came into the profession to help people and who want to provide the best service they can to the people they work with. But it is an uphill battle.

"We are providing services in a climate where our work has been consistently devalued in the eyes of the public by the media and politicians; where the demands have increased as the resources have been cut; and where there is a serious lack of understanding of the work that we do.

"Child care social workers are a good case in point. What do you think of when you think about child care social workers? Baby P? Brandon Muir? We only hit the headlines when there is a tragedy and the moving finger of blame needs to stop somewhere.

"But these attacks take attention away from the real issues for social work; chronic underfunding; poor staffing levels; too high workloads and excessive bureaucracy; a culture of over-regulation which does not take resource issues into account; and management cultures which are not "fit for purpose" and fail to support front-line staff and acknowledge their crucial task of working with intense and complex situations.

"These are the barriers to good practice that our members identified in a recent UK survey of child care social workers.

In moving a motion calling for a campaign to demand quality social services in Scotland, Kate also pointed out that although child protection is the sharp end of social care, care for other vulnerable people is also threatened.

“Last weeks Panorama investigation sharply pointed out the problems of relying on cost to supply home care.” said Kate.

“If the only issue being judged is price, you end up with privatised services, delivered by poorly trained, under resourced staff who have no time to deliver proper care.”

A UNISON UK-wide survey of social work staff, published in January 2009, identified reduced resources, staff vacancies, increased caseloads, inadequate supervision, remote leadership, lack of focus on the rights of the child, agencies passing the buck to social work and excessive bureaucracy with a lack of admin support as issues making things worse than they were six years ago.

Kate said, "Many thousands of children are protected day in and day out because of the work that social workers and other social care staff do. Many families are supported to care for their children; and many children whose families can’t care for them are successfully placed in long term foster care or with adopters.

"Many elderly people are able to stay in their own homes because of the home care and other support services that can be provided; others are supported in sheltered housing and residential care; and many adults with disabilities are enabled to lead the lives of their choosing.

"All this is achieved, despite all the problems, through the hard work and commitment of social care staff, and that should be recognised too."

"Inspections rightly point to practice and leadership issues but they never explicitly address resources. To ignore the fact that there are too few people to achieve the standards we all want just covers up the problem”, she added.

"As well as this though, I am calling on all of you to support your colleagues in social work and to defend them whenever you hear them unfairly criticised.

"All of us, at some point in our lives may well need support from social services for ourselves or our loved ones, so this issue affects every one of us. We should all be fighting hard for quality services, for ourselves, and for those who do not have a voice."

 

 

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