Cuts and tendering threaten social care - social
am calling on all of you to support your
colleagues in social work and to defend
them whenever you hear them unfairly criticised.
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."
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
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
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.
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
"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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