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Date: 11 March 2010

Public service cuts threaten safety and care standards - UNISON

Reports from public service workers throughout Scotland indicate that vacancy freezes and lack of absence cover are threatening safety, and reducing the levels of care to vulnerable said the public service union UNISON today.

An email survey of members, undertaken over the last few weeks, for the union's Public Works campaign is showing that this is the main impact of funding cuts over the last two years.

Dave Watson - UNISON's Scottish Organiser, said "It is too early to provide a comprehensive picture of cuts through this survey, but over 50% of respondents identified a vacancy freeze operating in their workplace. As this survey only covers the last two years of cuts, it means that the horrendous future cuts threatened can only directly threaten the safety of both staff and service users.

"Members are highlighting to us the dangers to people in their care, the risk of reduced safety cover, and how backroom staff cuts force staff off the frontline. That is why we are calling a march and rally in Glasgow on April 10 to bring together communities and service deliverers to call on politicians to stop the cuts and to adopt UNISON's alternative budget "

UNISON's email survey of members is still being analysed but key findings have already come to light. Many members have taken the opportunity to identify concerns about how these cuts impact in their workplace.

A number of quotes from anonymous responders follow.

'The weekly food budget for residents of this care home has been reduced from 72 per resident to less than 17' - cook, residential care home

'In this small section, no cover has been provided for one maternity leave and two long term sickness absences...' - member, Environmental Health Section.

'vulnerable adults now get less care hours, and staff no longer have the time to spend on each individuals needs. They are left alone for a greater period of time, hence increasing the risk.' - member, care service

'Admin takes up an inordinate amount of my time. Time better used doing face-to-face work with young people.' - youth worker

Dave Watson said "Politicians shouting for public spending cuts should listen to the voices from the frontline. Services are already stretched to breaking point, the further cuts that some propose will bring service levels far below acceptable levels - either of care, or even of safety."

ENDS

Notes for editors: The survey was taken from a random sample by email through UNISON's membership system and is currently being analysed fully, but of 269 responses, 144 identified a vacancy freeze and 28, no absence cover or overtime. Quotes have been provided under cover of anonymity.

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