Positively Public Campaign and Public Residential Care Homes for Vulnerable Older People

Back to all Motions

2002 National Delegate Conference
26 February 2002

This Conference:

1)Supports UNISON’s Positively Public campaign and all the initiatives that have arisen from it;

2)Notes with alarm that public residential care homes are rapidly disappearing and that this has not been highlighted in the Positively Public campaign and needs to be addressed urgently;

3)Recognises the dramatic loss in the number of publicly owned residential care beds for the elderly;

4)Recognises that this arose firstly with the Conservatives actively supporting services being sold to the private and independent sector;

5)Believes from all available evidence that this has continued under the twin programme of New Labour’s Best Value regime and the implementation of the Care Standards Act 2000 without the support of the necessary funding.

This Conference notes:

a)That the number of local authority residential care beds has declined steeply in the last 20 years from 134,000 beds provided directly by local authorities in 1980 to 59,200 by the year 2000;

b)The corresponding rise in the number of private and independent sector beds over the same period where in 1988 the private sector market in residential care for the elderly was worth just over £1.5 billion but by 1998 it was worth over £5.5 billion.

This Conference recognises:

i)The work undertaken with a number of UNISON branches by the Residents Action Group for the Elderly (RAGE) in carrying out, with the help of UNISON National Local Government Section, a survey of local government branches in 2001;

ii)That from the 44 branches which responded a further 396 residential homes are earmarked for privatisation, transfer or closure equating to a minimum 11,880 beds;

iii)That the gravity of the situation is that this is a conservative estimate and that the real picture and emotional, social and economic impact on residents and their families is at present unknown and immeasurable;

iv)That the full impact on UNISON residential care members is unknown;

v)That these members are some of UNISON’s lowest paid members, many of whom are women and from ethnic minorities, and that many who have transferred in previous privatisation exercises implemented by local authorities have had their pay and terms and conditions attacked.

This Conference further recognises:

A)The Kings Fund Enquiry in 2001 that pointed to the real crisis in residential care and concluded that a huge public investment of £700 million is needed in the care homes sector;

B)That all research carried out so far points to the privatisation of these services leading to even less investment;

C)That privatisation leads to a two-tier workforce, lowering of members pay, impacting on the pension provision of mainly women and ethnic minority staff;

D)That these exercises resulted in long-serving staff leaving and a lowering of the quality of care for vulnerable elderly residents.

This Conference notes:

I)Those UNISON branches in Hereford, Medway, Birmingham, Rochdale, Norwich, Plymouth and many others who have been fighting these attacks branch by branch and commends them for their defence of public social care services;

II)That such campaigns need greater national support as the crisis is a national crisis;

III)That campaigning with families and community groups has held up many councils and that many branches have won reprieves for individual homes;

IV)That in order to stop the complete erosion of this vital public service a national campaign is needed;

V)That many UNISON branches have been working closely with the Residents Action Group for the Elderly, a national campaign group made up of residents and their relatives;

VI)That RAGE have done a lot of work supporting new campaigns and sharing their experiences with UNISON branches and families and communities across the whole of the United Kingdom;

VII)That, in order to promote our Positively Public campaign, campaigning work with service users and their carers is central in building a national movement to stop the distress caused by the restructuring of the sector and ensure the democratic accountability and quality of social care services to the general public.

Conference therefore resolves to:

*Commission immediately with the support and help of RAGE, a national report to investigate what the real picture is and what impact it is having on residents, families and our members work in the sector;

*Use this report to publicise this issue nationally through all available channels;

*Raise the report and this issue through the Affiliated Political Fund to put pressure on ministers;

*Call a national Lobby of Parliament and the House of Lords on the issue, involving pensioners groups, community groups, other unions, sympathetic MPs and UNISON Local Government and Health branches nationally;

*Affiliate to the Residents Action Group for the Elderly and donate £10,000 to the campaign;

*Organise a one-day workshop for any branches campaigning around this issue at national, regional and local levels of the union;

*Give full support to branches taking industrial action over this issue.