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Wednesday 4 FEBRUARY 2009

Tories could deal with social worker crisis themselves.

UNISON, the UK's largest public service union, representing 300,000 social care workers including 40,000 social workers, today (4 February) called on the Tories to stop whingeing about social work shortages when they could take action to deal with the problem in many cases.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary said: "Last week UNISON described the shortage of social workers as a "ticking time bomb" and called on councils to take urgent action. It's a bit rich for the Tories to start whingeing about the crisis in recruiting and retaining social workers when they run most councils in England and some in Scotland. The answer to the problem lies in their hands. They could start by paying more to recruit and retain social workers and other key council staff if they had the political will to do so. Why don't they just get on with the job and stop wasting public funds asking their friends in local government for answers to questions they should already know?"

In England and Wales the Tories run 216 councils, 104 are No Overall Control, 48 Labour, 27 Lib Dem and 8 Independent. That means the Tories run 54% and are often the largest group on the NOC ones. They also Chair the Local Government Association.

In Scotland the Tories run 2 councils, are partners in 6 more and give support to the administration in a further 5.

Stephen Smellie, Chair of UNISON's Scottish Social Work Issues group will tell the Scottish parliament's Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture committee today that the pressures in Scotland are also high. "Councils in Scotland are the bodies responsible for recruiting and retaining social workers. Parties in control of those councils need to take action to deal with the problems of social work staffing and resources - especially in the children and families service."

UNISON has produced an eight-point plan aimed at tacking the crisis in child protection in Scotland.

UNISON’s eight-point plan: (reflecting the position in Scotland)

Co-working on all child protection investigation visits: child protection investigation visits to be done by two practitioners.

More social workers and support staff: an urgent action plan to fill vacancies and to review staffing levels across all social work teams.

National caseload management standards: enforced through the inspection process and regularly audited by the council leadership, with sanctions against employers who breach the Scottish Social Services Council’s Code of Practice for Social Care Employers.

More resources: a planned programme of investment in children and families’ social work.

Cull of bureaucracy: a root and branch zero-based review of all bureaucracy.

To increase the responsiveness of and resources to the widely respected Children’s Panel system: creating a system which ensures that social workers can service it properly and that the resources are in place to allow its decisions to be implemented.

Better support and more reflective practice: Social workers should have at least two years post-qualifying experience before being allocated child protection cases. There should be consistent, high quality supervision that is both supportive and challenging.

Measures to rebuild morale, confidence and status of social workers: redress the devastating impact on morale through re-instigating the campaign run by the previous Scottish Executive to promote positive public awareness about what social work achieves.


For Further Information Please Contact: Mandy McDowall (Regional Officer) 07903 846 427(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m) For information on the position across the UK contact: Mary Maguire – Head of Press and Broadcasting -07771 548 957 Anne Mitchell – Press Officer – 07887 945 307