Conference showed just why social work and social care
workers need UNISON as it backed a range of measures
demanding safe staffing levels. The union will call
on all the UK governments to review staff numbers and
introduce regulations to force employers to report staff
levels and vacancies annually.
It also raised concerns about social workers being
named in reports which will add to the abuse staff often
face due to the negative portrayal of the profession
in the media and TV dramas. It was not only a concern
for staff but also for people who may need services.
Kate Ramsden from Aberdeenshire branch and a member
of UNISON Scotland’s Social Work Issues Group,
reminded Conference she had spoken last year about the
two of our social work members, working in children
and families social work in Edinburgh, who had been
convicted of contempt of court: “Just for doing
their job. For placing the welfare of two young children
“These workers were forced to defend themselves
as individuals, not agents of their council”,
“If they had not been members of UNISON they
would have had to pay for their own legal counsel –
though to be fair, their council did pick up the tab.
“The impact of the contempt ruling was devastating
not just for the workers concerned but for all of us
who work in Children and Families social work.”
More contempt proceedings against staff followed. Guidance
was issued to support workers “but there’s
no doubt that it left workers and councils risk averse”,
Conference applauded as Kate told delegates: “I
am delighted to report that in March, on appeal, the
Court of Session quashed the contempt ruling against
our two members.
“But not only that, in their ruling they re-established
the principle that the child’s welfare is paramount.
“We were delighted with the outcome – not
just for our members but for all those vulnerable children
whose care and welfare are entrusted to us. How important
was it that UNISON could speak up for them?”
Glasgow branch’s Naomi Junnor underlined the
role of austerity in cutting staffing levels and increasing
caseloads, constant system changes and the workforce
“The number of cases being allocated is reaching
dangerous levels which has pushed Glasgow City housing
workers to breaking point”, said Naomi.
The effect of cuts is that the very principle of these
services is under threat.
Naomi told delegates: “I want to see our members
be able to pass on to their children and their communities
the right to take for granted these vital services that
have served us for over 50 years.”
The fight against austerity was the key to protecting
staff and services.