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Regulating of Care (Scotland) Bill

UNISON Submission

January 2001


1.1 UNISON, the public sector union, is the largest trade union in Scotland, representing members across the range of public services, but particularly health and local government services. UNISON represents not only the majority of staff employed in Registration and Inspection Services at present, but also the vast majority of the social service, residential and social care workforce in the public and voluntary sectors.

1.2 We have in membership those who will provide the core of the registration and inspection functions of the Commission and those who will be the subjects of the register administered by the council. It is therefore appropriate and necessary that UNISON comments on the Bill.

2.1 We welcome the provisions of the Bill and measures to strengthen and support a common system of registration and inspection and the maintenance of professional standards of the workforce, to raise standards of practice and to protect people who use the services. UNISON shares the Scottish Executive's objectives of ensuring improved protection for vulnerable individuals, securing public confidence in the provision of the range of care and recognising that this will in large part depend upon a stable workforce, properly trained, educated and remunerated.

2.2 We believe that these objectives can be achieved without creating a system which unfairly threatens the career and livelihoods of social care workers and those currently employed in registration and inspection services. It is vital that mechanisms are in place which ensure a smooth transition for registration and inspection staff and that the workforce can enter the new regulatory framework with the confidence that they will be treated with fairness in circumstances which will inevitably cause stress and concern. The success of the legislation in meeting its objectives will depend upon those charged with its implementation and those working to deliver the social care services.

3.1 In the context of the legislation and subsequent regulations and codes of practice, UNISON takes the clear view that professional and employment issues need to be separated, with employment issues being dealt with in the context of an industrial relations framework and using existing machinery. The issues around the regulation and/or de-regulation of social care bring into play other legislation, affecting as they may do the employment rights and civil rights of staff concerned.

3.2 The implementation of the proposals regarding the regulation of care and the workforce needs to be phased in, not least because of the resource implications for current employees, but to take account of proper service development and the very real need for staff training, both R&I and the workforce.

4. In summary, UNISON in its evidence at the consultation stages prior to the production of the Bill, has generally welcomed the changes, has highlighted the implications for education and training for registration and inspection staff and those who will come within the scope of the register, and has identified staffing and employment issues. We would wish to address some of these in more detail, referring to the Schedules.

5.1 UNISON believes that in order to ensure that the balance between lay members, service users and professional interests is maintained and to ensure that there are enough council members to carry out the workload, our view is that the question of the size of the Commission governing body should be re-examined. We are of the view that it will be difficult to ensure that a group of 17 -- 21 will be large enough to give enough flexibility to ensure a wide range of interests are covered by the membership. In this context UNISON also takes the view that the composition of the Commission must include representatives of all client groups and not just those representing clients' stakeholders. All component parts should have regard to ethnicity not mere tokenism. Members reflecting service users interests will need to demonstrate the diversity of client groups and the communities from which they come.

5.2 UNISON as the major trade union in the area and having the majority of members transferring to the staff of the Commission, would expect that the terms and conditions of all employees affected would be protected by something stronger than a commitment to the principles of TUPE and would contain a proper transfer order along the lines of Section 9 of the Local Government Act 1996. TUPE in itself, even if applied, would be insufficient to deal with the issues which arise from transfer. It therefore follows that proper consultation and discussion should take place with the appropriate employers organisations, trade unions, Executive and Commission prior to and at the time of transfer, in order to ensure a satisfied workforce.

5.3 Staff who may be subject to transfer have a range of concerns around proposed locations, staffing structures and grades, job descriptions and qualifications, conditions of work (eg home working), continuity of service, continuity of service with current employers, training. The Bill, explanatory notes and seminars have not provided sufficient clarity to reassure staff.

5.4 The experience in England has illustrated some benefits in negotiating and consulting on a unified set of conditions prior to transfer. This has allowed a rationalisation of various inherited conditions of service, given staff important information to consider and make an informed choice on future career or consider alternatives to transfer or continued employment.

5.5 We would urge the Executive to adopt this prior approach as essential to providing a stable workforce which will be essential to a smooth transition and implementation.

5.6 UNISON would expect that a high priority would be given to establishing a continuing training programme for all staff. We are particularly concerned that the Commission should establish a proper induction training programme on the legislation and systems prior to and after transfer.

5.7 The proposal that the cost of regulation be met by fees from the regulated providers is unrealistic. There is a danger that the ultimate "purchasers", the clients, will bear the burden of additional costs.

The Council

6.1 The comments made at paragraph 5.1 regarding the composition of the Commission similarly apply to the Council where appropriate places should be identified for trade unions. The credibility of the registration and appeal processes will benefit from the industrial relations experience of the trade unions both in its application and ability to distinguish professional and employment issues.

6.2 UNISON recognises that the registration process could have employment implications for staff but would emphasise our earlier comment regarding the necessity to separate registration and employment in the workforce. Issues not addressed properly could lead to the regulatory body straying into areas of employment legislation and industrial relations which should be left with employers.

6.3 UNISON is concerned at the balance of responsibility for continuing education and training presented in the consultation papers and explanatory notes. There needs to be a greater financial commitment to pursuing the objectives of a better trained and qualified workforce, particularly in the residential sectors. A range of Government reports, in abstract and into particular cases, have emphasised the need for a greater commitment of resources if the objectives of the legislation, adequate care and public confidence are to be achieved.

6.4 We welcome the intention to phase registration requirements to particular groups. However the phases to be included are unclear. The phasing should not be seen as an alternative to funding training required to secure registration.

6.5 UNISON would repeat our view expressed in relation to the Commission and that the costs of registration be met either partly or wholly by fees paid by registrants being totally unrealistic. Any fees must reflect the individuals' ability to pay.

7. UNISON has welcomed the principles of the Bill and the opportunity to participate in consultation and to address the Committee. We hope to have similarly constructive engagement with the Executive Implementation Team and COSLA in addressing the range of staffing issues in particular.

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