Most of our social services workers are employed
by Local Authorities, which we believe is the most appropriate
vehicle for delivery of social care services. We also represent
a substantial number of staff who work in the private and voluntary
UNISON Scotland in partnership with the Workers
Educational Association (UNISON/WEA) is currently involved in
delivering education and training services to the social service
workforce in Scotland and this submission will also comment on
this work and ways that it could be improved. The response to
this document has been framed from experience working across these
sectors and engaging with workers, managers, training and development
managers and policy makers at local regional and national levels.
The UNISON/WEA partnership has been organising
and delivering learning opportunities to workers in health and
social care for over 15 years. Over the last five years we been
working in partnership with the Scottish Executive Health Department
and the Social Work Services Inspectorate, delivering Return to
Learn to workers in these sectors through the Learning Together
Strategy for Health and the Twelve Point Action Plan for Social
In the last two years UNISON/WEA has organised
and delivered 82 Return to Learn courses, involving nearly 1000
frontline social care staff. Social care employers including 28
of Scotland's Local Authorities and many national, and locally
based, voluntary sector organisations have been involved in this
UNISON/WEA recognises the importance of enabling
staff to overcome the barriers to learning which exist for many
frontline social care staff. Without adequate and effective means
to do this will limit not only the opportunity for staff to develop
to their full potential, but will limit the ability of the sector
to benefit from the full range of skills and experience located
in large numbers of frontline staff.
UNISON supports the principles within the strategy
which identify the need for learning to be more than that related
to registration, and welcomes the introduction of the Continuing
Professional Development component for all staff working in social
UNISON recognises the important role of the union
learning representatives and lifelong learning advisers in promoting
participation in learning and in identifying learning needs in
the workforce. We are well placed to support implementation of
learning initiatives through our well-established network of learners
representatives and lifelong learning advisers.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to comment
on the National Strategy for the Development of the Social Service
Workforce in Scotland 2005 - 2010: A Plan for Action.
CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION
UNISON Scotland welcomes the intention of the
Scottish Executive's National Workforce Group to take action to
develop the social service workforce with the aim of encouraging:
"a competent, confident and valued workforce,
delivering high quality, person centred services, responsive to
the diverse and changing environment of Scotland in the 21st
We believe this can be best achieved by including
the recognised trade unions as key components in representing
the interests of the social services workforce.
Need to develop a learning culture
UNISON Scotland has long campaigned for training
and professional development on behalf of this workforce, and
are delighted that the previous inadequate provision is now to
be addressed. We believe that at present there is no learning
culture across most of the workforce and we hope that the radical
thinking behind this strategy will fulfil the objectives that
it has set itself. However, in developing a learning culture within
the social services workforce, mechanisms need to be established
to engage the entire workforce in learning. The partnership with
trade unions and learning providers has been demonstrated to be
effective in achieving this, e.g. UNISON/WEA's Return to Learn
Need to widen access to training for whole
We believe there is a need for training for all
staff across the workforce, from the managers of the various services
and the elected members, to the clerical, administrative and other
support workers. We would particularly emphasise the role of the
admin support and family support workers who perform a valuable
service in supporting the role of the social worker. We would
wish greater emphasis in the document on training and development
needs of these staff.
Community and Voluntary Sector
UNISON Scotland has concerns that the document
fails to take account of the challenges currently facing the voluntary
sector already struggling to cope with:
- Introduction of SVQ's for Staff
- Increased regulation by the Social Services Council
- Care Commission
- Funding cuts
- Low pay and high staff turnover
The employers in this sector are of a small to
medium size and they have reservations that their need to develop
and support staff will not be supported with additional funding
We welcome the acknowledgement that the prime
outcome of the strategy is to improve the lives of those who use
the services provided by our members and support the aims contained
in the outcomes identified for the sector.
We are therefore, concerned that the document
does not include service users as key stakeholders as we believe
that all training and development plans need to be tailored to
improvements for them.
Equally we believe that the relevant trade unions
should be recognised as key stakeholders both in their role as
attaining the best conditions for their members, which incorporates
the need for training and development and in their role as assisting
in the provision of such training and development.
Importance of Access to Learning and Workplace
With regard to the Main Challenges facing the
Sector, UNISON/WEA believes that access to learning and learning
supports needs to be embedded into the processes of recruitment
and staff development to encourage and facilitate entry into,
and career development within, the social care sector.
In addition, a range of Learning Supports needs
to be available to allow workers to confidently and competently
undertake the learning associated with registration. This range
will run from:
SQA Access supporting SVQ II,
SQA Intermediate supporting SVQ III/HNC, and
SQA Higher supporting SVQ III and IV/HNC/HND
and entry to degree level.
UNISON/WEA's experience from working across the
sector is that additional, extensive, skills gaps exist for frontline
social care staff not yet confident or competent enough to undertake
registration based and career development focussed qualifications.
Workload Management and the Trade Unions
We also wish to include an additional point of
Workload Management in this section, as we believe that such a
system would be welcomed by our members, and once properly implemented,
could alleviate some of the stress experienced due to heavy workloads.
We again emphasise that the trade unions have
a key role to play in enabling the workforce to engage with new
policy developments, in assisting in delivering high quality services
and brokering effective partnership working within the social
care and health sectors.
CHAPTER 2: CURRENT FRAMEWORK
UNISON Scotland welcomes the acknowledgement
of the complexity of the environment in which social service workers
operate which are ever changing due to continual legislative and
We have supported recent policy developments
including the aim of trebling the number of residential childcare
staff meeting SSSC requirements by 2009; increasing the number
of early years, childcare and support staff by 2009 and increasing
the number of qualified social workers in the same time.
We have also supported the introduction of SSSC
Codes of Practice for Social Service Workers and Employers, which
create an initial framework for training and continuing professional
development for social service workers.
Need for Strong Inspection Bodies
UNISON Scotland welcomed the establishment of
the Care Commission and has expressed its support at the recent
proposals to change the structure of the Social Work Services
Inspectorate. We believe that there is a need for strong inspection
bodies, each with a clearly defined role, including their relationship
with each other.
Improved HR Policies
With regard to the National Initiatives we welcome
the establishment of the Human Resources Group which is developing
a toolkit for people management and development. (2.18) However,
we believe this section should be expanded to include the development
of policies to improve the conditions of the staff, by introducing
family friendly policies, such as carer's leave and flexible working
policies which would assist work-life balance. At present most
staff need protection from excessive workloads. The high workloads
cause great stress to our members. We are also aware that these
circumstances can create a culture of bullying and that dignity
at work policies should be introduced to address this. In addition
we do not believe that enough regard is paid to health and safety
for the workforce and would wish to see managers trained and encouraged
to implement such policies.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the recognition that
flexible working arrangements need to become more developed and
particularly in regard to the pensions issue would support choice
for the workforce to be able to decide whether they want to work
beyond the age of 60 or to be able to retire earlier. We believe
that more flexible working arrangements should be introduced to
create a more advantageous work-life balance than is available
Need to Improve Diversity
We support the focus on examining ways to encourage
people from the black and minority ethnic communities into social
work which will reflect our diverse communities. However, we feel
that there are other groups that could equally be targeted, such
as service users and carers, who may have valuable experience
to contribute in the social service workforce. Other groups should
also be considered, such as men, which would address gender issues
in the workforce.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the establishment of
the 21st Century Review of Social Work and is making
a contribution through its involvement with the group. We are
also directly involved in the National Review of Early Years and
Childcare Workforce and will be making separate responses during
the lifetime of this group.
With regard to technological advances, we are
concerned that restrictions on access to IT skills will be most
acutely felt by frontline social care staff, many of whom will
need most support in using new technologies. Appropriate supports
must be made available.
In paragraph 2.29 we would encourage both the
Scottish Executive and Local Authorities to look at greater use
of European funding, such as that utilised in the Spotlight in
Practice initiative, the Glasgow Employment Multiplier outlined
in the document.
Importance of Return to Learn
The Twelve Point Action Plan introduced by the
Minister for Education and Young People in 2002, identified the
provision of Return to Learn as a key area of workforce development
which supported the successful participation in SVQs by frontline
social care staff. The programme was supported by SWSI and provided
essential, effective, and appropriate learning support to frontline
social care staff from all areas of the sector across Scotland.
UNISON/WEA is currently negotiating for continuation and development
of this programme.
UNISON Scotland shares the Executive's concerns
at the skills gaps and shortages across the workforce. We believe
that for many staff, the most significant reasons lie in their
ability to engage with learning and in identifying the relevance
of learning with their personal and work development. Failure
to provide mechanisms to overcome these barriers to participation
in learning and development will dilute the effectiveness of CPD
for all, and reduce the ability of the sector to effectively develop
career and development paths for existing and new staff.
UNISON/WEA through the Return to Learn Programme
included in the 12 Point Action Plan, has delivered 82 courses
equalling nearly 1000 learners, and developed partnerships across
the social care sector with health. UNISON/WEA has also worked
with the Scottish Institute for Residential Childcare to offer
a complementary range of supports for staff working towards registration
Training across Whole Workforce.
However, whilst we fully understand that the
first phase of training has had to be slanted towards registration
in the childcare sector, the impact has been to take training
away from other sectors. If in stage 2 the training is targeted
towards another, distinct group of staff, e.g. staff working in
care of the elderly, then again, the rest of the staff will again
miss out. There is a need for training across the whole sector
and we seek assurances that all staff will be treated equitably.
Fast Track Graduate Recruitment Scheme
We continue to have reservations at the operation
of the Fast Track Graduate Recruitment Scheme, which brings graduates
without any experience of social work into the profession. We
believe that more should be done to encourage staff currently
employed as part of the social services workforce into social
work training as they have already demonstrated a clear commitment
to the ethos of the service.
CHAPTER 3: EFFECTIVE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
UNISON Scotland supports the vision of "a
competent, confident and valued workforce delivering high quality,
person-centred services". We particularly welcome the emphasis
on the Learning Culture having a prime role in the organisation.
We agree that the culture of staff development should be encompassed
by the whole organisation, including the elected members and management
at all levels - it should not just be the responsibility of specialist
training personnel. We also believe that the trade unions should
be involved at all stages of development. We acknowledge that
training and development has to be a responsibility of politicians,
management, Human Resource services and that the individual also
has a role to play.
We believe that access to a range of learning
supports at a range of levels will be essential if learning and
development are to become recognised as a priority by frontline
staff. Learning supports and routes into learning are essential
to enable staff to confidently and competently participate in
the formal and informal learning associated with the delivery
of social care services.
We agree that investment in staff development
and improving the skills of the workforce should be seen as "an
essential dimension of improving the quality of services delivered
to service users" and support the action points for this
section. (Paragraph 3.4)
We are concerned, however, particularly in the
Voluntary Sector, that staff who fail to attain the minimum standards
required, could be excluded from the already stretched labour
market, despite having served that sector faithfully and appropriately
for many years.
Management of Change - Involvement of Trade
We need clarification on Paragraphs 3.5, 7 &
8. UNISON appreciates that there is often a need for change in
the way services are delivered and planned, nevertheless, we would
expect that any changes to working practices would be managed
in a proper way, following full negotiations with the trade unions.
Change must be managed in an atmosphere of trust with adequate
support for staff. In Paragraph 3.5 we feel it is quite obvious
that staff cannot develop themselves, without the employer making
opportunities available to them and providing the support to that
development, by, for example, freeing up time and providing back
up for work to be covered.
Overcoming Barriers to Learning
We believe there needs to be a working environment
which recognises and acknowledges the range of styles and rates
in which adults learn and the resulting range of supports into
and through the learning process that should be available in the
workplace for effective learning to take place. (3.6)
We believe that the type of organisation referred
to in paragraph 3.10 should work to provide staff with opportunities
to overcome barriers to learning and work in partnership with
those with a track record of
However, we require an additional point be added
to the list: "be responsive to and knowledgeable about health
& safety legislation, including stress and bullying issues;
family friendly policies and ensure that care and respect is afforded
to their staff".
We support the recognition of staff supervision
(para 3.17) being a key component to the provision of support
to and care of the workforce. We also acknowledge the need for
performance assessment as part of staff supervision. However,
we would not support in any way the introduction of performance
being related to pay
When taking steps to put in place effective Performance
Review and Appraisal Systems (Action following para 3.38) we expect
assurances that this will be done following consultation with
the Trade Unions.
Need for Reduction of Excessive Workloads
We accept that individuals have a responsibility
to ensure that they are properly trained and developed, but we
strongly believe that this is not possible unless the proper framework
and encouragement is put into place by the organisation. We do
not accept that staff should have to invest their own time and
finance in their own learning, when clearly this learning could
only be to the benefit of the service provided by that individual.
We have already commented on excessive workloads being commonplace
throughout social services and think it unreasonable that staff
are expected to cope with the workload and fit in studying in
their own time. We have also commented on the need for a better
work-life balance to be aimed for and this would work against
that stated aim.
In Para 3.24 we believe that the 12 Point Action
Plan with the provision of Return to Learn is a route to supporting
staff overcome barriers to learning and we believe this involvement
should continue. We also believe (para 3.27) that programmes,
such as the UNISON/WEA Skills Escalator provide a parallel spectrum
of learning activity which would offer a series of access points
and supports to enable staff to step on and off the continuum
of workplace and lifelong learning experience, including the proposals
for Continual Professional Development which we fully support.
Induction Courses and Trade Union Participation
In the Spectrum of Learning and Development we
support the need for Induction to introduce staff to the workplace
and highlight their role in it. However, we believe that trade
unions should be specifically included as a key stakeholder in
the induction process.
UNISON Learner Representatives and Lifelong
UNISON's Learner Representatives and Lifelong
Learning Advisers are role models for learning based on their
own experience, and have statutory support for their activities
in promoting access to learning for others by highlighting relevance
and opportunities for development to their colleagues throughout
In addition, UNISON/WEA enables access to Careers
Scotland advisors for independent guidance on professional and
personal learning activities and this is also complemented by
UNISON and employer guidance on learning opportunities which produces
maximum student personal choice and responsibility for learning
and development participation. We believe that the role played
by UNISON/WEA and UNISON's Life-long Learning advisers should
be recognised in the section on Recognising Achievement.
For effective methods of delivery (para 3.32)
there is a need to learn from current experience of Return 2 Learn,
which is that the learner must be placed at the centre of activity.
This means that there needs to be access to learning in the workplace
at a time which enables participation but which does not result
in reduction in service delivery standards.
CHAPTER 4: SUPPORTING WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
Trade Union Participation in the Sector Skills
UNISON Scotland notes the intention to establish
Sector Skills Council for the Social Service sector. We note that
such councils "actively involve trade unions" as well
as other stakeholders. We are concerned that so far there has
been no consultation with UNISON on the establishment of the Social
Service Sector Skills Council. Along with our counterparts at
a UK level we at least expect the Trade Unions to be afforded
a seat on the council so that they can participate in its organisation.
We welcome the intention to build on and extend
requirements for registration and Post-Registration Training and
Learning and the proposals for Continuous Professional Development
for Social Workers and the intention to extend these to other
staff. (para 4.4)
In Para 4.20 we believe there should be a role
for adult education providers from the statutory voluntary sectors
to support FE and HE activities.
Access to, and use of IT, in learning (para 4.21)
needs to be appropriately supported for those sections of workforce
with no experience or access to IT facilities. We would emphasise
that models of flexible delivery exist through the UNISON/WEA
Diversity and equality ((4.24) can be well articulated
through partnership with Trade Unions who in many cases are best
placed to raise and address issues arising from a diversifying
Recruitment and Retention Issues
Retention of staff and growing of the workforce
(4.25) is often linked to job satisfaction, and other ‘soft' issues
such as access to and support for learning. Nevertheless UNISON
Scotland still believes that Social Workers have fallen behind
other public sector workers such as teachers, doctors and nurses,
in pay, status and career progression, particularly post-McCrone
and following pay review body awards for other public sector workers.
We are clear that job structure, pay and grading of social workers,
and other staff in the sector needs to be seriously reviewed in
the light of all of these demands and pressures, which will go
a long way towards addressing the recruitment and retention problems.
In the Voluntary Sector resources also need to
be committed to secure adequate career paths and a wages structure
that recognises the essential role of its staff.
UNISON Scotland believes that Staff Release Issues
(4.28/9) are crucial to effective workforce development throughout
the sector. If resources and systems are not put in place to provide
cover to release staff to undertake training, then the training
will not be able to take place. Staff need to know that they will
not have to return to a huge workload, to enable them to benefit
from their training and staff development. Service delivery relies
on effective staff support, including staff release for learning
and development. The benefits of staff participation in learning
need to be viewed in mid to long term and not short term time
periods. There are also issues around equality of access which
arise when this not effectively addressed. Support for managers'
understanding of these issues is essential.
The Community and Voluntary sector have additional
problems, due to the high staff turnover within the sector which
makes it more difficult to deliver a service, and provides no
cover for staff to be allowed time for training and development.
Ability to Engage with Learning
The ability of the individual to engage with
learning (4.30) often depends on previous experience and routes
must be found to support those who have been away from education
for some time, those who have had a poor experience of school
or college and those who do not see or understand the relationship
of personal development learning and work. The experience of UNISON
and the WEA has shown that these issues exist across a range of
workforce groups and at a number of learning levels. Other perceived
barriers to learning such as age, gender and employers support
can be overcome by effective partnership working with Trade Unions,
and explicit employer support for activities of the Learner Representative
and Lifelong Learning Adviser.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the acknowledgement
that adequate funding is essential for the aim of workforce development
to become a reality and we note the arrangements currently in
force. However we are concerned that cash-strapped local authorities
and voluntary sector organisations will not be able to adequately
fund their portion of funding which may have to compete with other,
more pressing demands. If the proposals discussed in the document
are to be realised, there must be guarantees from the Scottish
Executive that there will be adequate funding made available to
both provide the funding and provide the framework to ensure that
staff development is able to take place.
For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835