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Date: 20 March 2012

New UNISON study argues for proper service redesign instead of back office cuts through flawed 'shared service' models

The front line starts here

A new 16-page report for UNISON Scotland argues that 'efficiency savings' which are often expected from piecemeal organisational change such as flawed 'shared services' models are rarely achieved. In fact, the vast majority of front line staff - around 90% - who have faced cuts to so-called 'back office' admin jobs believe this has been at the expense of their primary tasks.

'The front line starts here' document, published today, outlines the case for full service redesign to be explored as an option when developing shared front and back office service proposals.

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said:
"The UK National Audit Office reported this month that Whitehall departments have spent a staggering £1.4 billion over the past seven years - but saved just £159 million by ill-advised schemes for sharing 'back office' functions such as personnel and procurement.

"Our report highlights the importance of designing systems from the service user upwards - as opposed to piecemeal organisational change in the form of structures, which is resulting in the separation and fragmentation of services across the Scottish public sector.

"We want to end that kind of waste. Instead we want to work with public authorities to explore full service redesign as an option when developing shared front and back office service proposals."

The new report includes results from a UNISON survey of frontline public service worker in areas like social work and protective services, which shows that cutbacks in admin functions have damaging effects on vital public service, and are rarely effective or efficient.

Dave Watson said:
"The vast majority of the front line workers we surveyed - 94% - believed that it was more effective to provide administrative support in the same office than to centralise in 'shared service' type back office operations. 'The front line starts here' seeks to expose the flaws in creating artificial splits between the front and back office services when setting up shared service delivery arrangements, as back and front office services are interdependent."


For further information please contact:
Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns - 07958 122409
Stephen Low, Policy Officer - 0141 342 2811 / 0795 685 2822
Malcolm Burns, Communications Officer - 0141 342 2877 / 07538 640 396

Note to editors:

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing over 160,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland. Our members work together in the teams providing vital public services for all our communities - whether they are regarded as 'frontline' or 'back office'.

2. 'The front line starts here' was prepared for UNISON Scotland by APSE – the Association for Public Service Excellence (Scotland) - and is available for download here:
www.unison-scotland.org.uk/publicworks/ thefrontlinestartshere_mar2012.pdf

3. Results of UNISON Scotland survey 2011 included in 'The front line starts here' document:

In 2011 UNISON Scotland surveyed a sample of ‘front office’ staff on administrative support. Primarily professional staff in local government such as social work, planning, protective services etc. The key findings included:

• 87% reported that their administrative staff support had been reduced.

• 92% of those using replacement selfservice systems felt that this had added to their workload at the expense of their primary tasks.

• 84% indicated that they were being expected to perform clerical or administrative tasks that used to be performed by staff trained to perform those functions.

• Of those who were undertaking additional administrative tasks:

- 26% said up to 2 hours per week
- 24% said between 2-4 hours per week
- 37% said between 4-7 hours per week
- 13% said more than one day per week

• 94% believed that it was more effective to provide administrative support in the same office than to centralise in back office operations.