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Justice 2 Committee Youth Justice Inquiry
Written Evidence Submitted by UNISON Scotland. August 2004


This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's written evidence to the Justice 2 Committee's Youth Justice Inquiry.

UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing over 150,000 members working in the public sector and represents workers throughout the Youth Justice system in Scotland. Our members work in the Voluntary sector, with the Scottish Children's Reporters Administration and in residential and fieldwork settings for Children and Families Social Work teams in all of Scotland's 32 local authorities.

UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to put forward our views regarding the Justice 2 Committee's Inquiry and to voice the wider concerns of our members who work in the field of youth justice.


UNISON Scotland acknowledges that the majority of the questions set out in the call for evidence are aimed at service providers. However, as the workplace representatives and as trainers of the wider social care work force, we would like to take this opportunity to highlight a number of issues that we believe impairs inter-agency working in the field of youth justice.

1. The crisis in social work

UNISON Scotland believes that the shortage of Children and Families social workers is a major factor in the current failings of the Children's Hearings system. It is a matter of fact that there are not enough people doing the job. The 2003 Audit Scotland report highlights that problem succinctly. Its findings stated that between 300 and 500 children on supervision were estimated not to be getting the service that the children's hearings had prescribed. In addition, the report from the Council on Tribunals, the Child Protection Audit and Review and an Executive Central Research Unit Report into home supervision all found that social work services were lacking in ways that compromised the Children's Hearings system's ability to do its job.

Our members in youth justice and care regularly encounter examples of needs not being met. Many Panel decisions are currently not being implemented or properly supervised because of the lack of trained social workers and the lack of places on specialist programmes and—when deemed appropriate—places in secure accommodation.

Based on this evidence and the experiences of our own members UNISON Scotland believes that until key social work issues such as recruitment, retention and training are resolved, the Children's Hearings system and the wider youth justice system will continue to fail some children.

In addition, non-qualified social workers and social work assistants working in Community Care and Children and Family teams are increasingly used to cover the gaps created by the shortage of QSWs. This has meant them taking on more complex cases with no consequent increase in training or pay. There are high levels of absence as a result of stress and violence, morale is low and resources stretched.

Also, residential care continues to be seen as a lesser service. It suffers from lack of resources and the financial difficulties of the private/not-for-profit sector. Many residential services are so inadequately staffed, that they are dependent upon extensive overtime working to maintain staff : resident ratios.

Additional pressures are being exerted on staff by the closure of children's secure units and violence and lone-working continue to be issues of concern in both residential and day care.

Attempts by the employers to compete with each other for QSWs through 'golden hellos' and 'handcuffs' whilst at the same time holding down the wages of the lowest paid staff will not resolve the recruitment and retention problems. Often where councils have increased pay, the money has come out of other existing services and reallocating the resources of unfilled posts. Additional funding must be secured to pay all social care staff a wage that reflects the true value of their work. This is a national crisis and the Scottish Executive should be providing funds to address it.


2. Need for Funding stability

UNISON Scotland believes that the periodic resource allocation for political initiatives has an adverse impact on core Local Authority services and on the stability of partner agencies. This in turn effects the joint planning of services and impacts on the ability of agencies to participate in effective partnership working arrangements.

UNISON Scotland does not believe that current resources are being used as effectively as they might be. Many rehabilitation initiatives have been established with ring-fenced funding from the Executive. Ring-fenced funding offers, at best, only a fixed short-term solution. We believe that ring-fencing diverts resources and undermines local accountability. Funding should be directed towards maintaining and improving core services and not ring-fenced for specific projects.

The Community & Voluntary sectors are key partners in the field of youth justice, yet historically they have suffered from chronic under-funding and instability which adversely effects the planning of services. UNISON Scotland believes that the Executive must show a greater commitment to providing adequate funding for these sectors. We believe this can be done by ensuring that the funding bodies themselves i.e. local authorities and health boards are afforded adequate resource allocation to enable proper funding for these agencies.

3. Training Agenda

Registration of the social care workforce will require enormous investment in training to achieve the necessary qualifications. For some the task of achieving an SVQ and HNC is quite daunting. That is why UNISON launched the Return-to Learn (R2L) courses. These are designed to introduce members to learning, developing skills and building confidence.

UNISON Scotland is of the opinion that the direction of LA training budgets is not always transparent. We believe it would be beneficial if there was a greater obligation on the part of LAs to share resources by establishing partnership training initiatives with other agencies. This way, LAs would be able to utilise the expertise and experience of organisations across the sector to ensure social care staff obtain the necessary qualifications for registration.

The Scottish Executive has introduced the "fast-track" scheme to enable graduates to train as social workers in under 2 years in addition to launching publicity campaigns to attract young people into social work. Whilst welcome, the positive benefits of these initiatives are still some time away from being realised and will not address the current shortfall of hundreds of vacancies.

We argue for an increase in the numbers of people being trained and for a scheme to allow more of the current unqualified staff to be "fast-tracked" to become qualified without needing to leave their job. Thousands of staff with years of experience, many with SVQs, HNCs or other qualifications should be given the support to become qualified social workers. We need work-based routes to learning, training and qualifications, including routes leading to QSW. These must be available to the whole workforce.

4. Regulation/Registration

UNISON welcomes moves towards regulating and registering the social care workforce. This will enhance the quality of the services we provide and raise the value of our skills.

UNISON Scotland believes that employers need to put in place the necessary resources, including replacement costs, to allow staff to study and achieve the required qualifications. UNISON has made contributions to this and we will continue to press the employers - in line with their responsibilities outlined in the Scottish Social Services Council's Code of Practice for Employers - and the Executive to ensure that all staff are able to achieve registration.

Registration of the workforce is not the same as the professional registration of nurses, teachers and occupational therapists. All staff in social care will require to be registered in order to work in the sector. This is why UNISON has argued that the employer should pay the annual registration fee and 3-yearly disclosure fee. We will continue to press both CoSLA and local councils on this issue.

Finally, UNISON Scotland would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the launch of recent Executive initiatives on recruitment and we have been encouraged by the Executives decisions to establish the National Workforce Group and the 21st Century Social Work Group. We look forward to studying the conclusions of both groups.

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For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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