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Date: 21 April 2009

Cuts and tendering threaten social care - social workers warn

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 “The continuing understaffing of children and families work is getting worse with the increasing demand for more savings, and as demand increases the widening gap can only increase the chances of further tragedies, such as Brandon Muir or ‘Baby P’.”

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 Ms Ramsden .

“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 “Our members want to work to high standards. Whether they work for the council or the voluntary sector, they want to be accountable, want to protect children, and provide proper home care services. But they tell us that too often they are being asked to do this with one hand tied behind their back”. “

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.


Notes for Editors: The UNISON survey is announced on http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/news/2009/janfeb/2601.htm , and available on http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/B4416.pdf

For Further Information Please Contact: Kate Ramsden (UNISON Social Work Issues Group) 07767 027 722 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)