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16 October 2003

'Lust for blame' may mean social work problems will not be addressed - UNISON

UNISON, the union that represents almost all social work staff in Scotland today issued a clarion call for an end to the witchhunts and scapegoating that have marked the fallout from the Inquiry report into the death of Caleb Ness.

The union's City of Edinburgh Branch Secretary, John Stevenson told the City of Edinburgh Council today (Thursday), (Copies of his address are available by clicking here) that the kind of media witchhunt that led to the resignation of Director Les McEwan made it less likely that social workers would be recruited to fill the vacancies in Scotland's care services.

"Social workers across Edinburgh have felt sadness, shock, despair, anger, and despondency in their heart-searching over the death of Caleb Ness." He said.

"We all feel responsible, and we want to work with the council in ensuring that procedures are effective and proper support is available in order to prevent the likelihood of this happening again. The lust for blame fuelled by the press-led campaign for the Director of Social Work's resignation shows no understanding of what needs to be addressed."

UNISON points out that social workers, especially in children and families work, constantly live with the risk that something unpredictable and unavoidable will arise.

John Stevenson said: "If this pressure, along with staff shortages, constant vilification, and relatively poor pay, also includes media witchhunts, why would anyone want the job? The inquiry clearly states that no single individual should be held responsible, yet sections of the media have done their utmost to overturn this. The resignation of the Director of Social Work will not be a positive step either for Social Work as a whole, or for children in Edinburgh.

"UNISON is not here to defend bad practice. But we are not here either to collude with a frenzied search for scapegoats, or to give credibility to the disgraceful antics of some of the media.

"What is required is for us and the council to ensure standards are monitored and met, to re-establish the morale of social workers, to support them in the difficult job they do and for the Scottish Executive to ensure that it finances the children's services it aspires to."

UNISON points out that resources are a problem in social work across Scotland - in Edinburgh 170 children and families social workers deal with almost half a million of a population - and that issue must be addressed by ensuring staff have the proper support, access to the appropriate training, and that they are adequately rewarded.

"This will require the anger to be put on one side, the drive for scapegoats to be put on hold, and real efforts made in an atmosphere of calm and considered reflection."


John will address the full City of Edinburgh Council at 10.00am on Thursday 16 October. Copies of his address are available by clicking here - please check against delivery.

For Further Information Please Contact: John Stevenson, Edinburgh City Branch Secretary 07876 795 018(m) Chris Bartter, Communications Officer, 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)