Community Development

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2004 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 February 2004

Conference recalls the National Executive Council’s decision that UNISON affiliate to the Standing Conference for Community Development (SCCD) and that this decision was taken as a result of a proposal made in the first place by the Youth and Community Workers Forum to the Service Group Executive.

The forum’s original aim was to seek to represent community workers as effectively as it does youth workers and to influence policy and practice issues such as occupational standards and training.

As a result of the affiliation UNISON was represented on a working party which conducted the first United Kingdom wide study for twenty years on the employment of community workers. Among the study’s findings are:

1)The great majority of workers are on fixed-term contracts;

2)Pay disparities by gender, ethnicity and occupational sector;

3)Varying qualification requirements for jobs;

4)Limited access to training and appropriate professional supervision; and

5)Roles previously considered the remit of professional staff increasingly undertaken by unpaid volunteers.

With assistance from the Leeds office, a UNISON representative attended SCCD’s 2002 annual conference and ran an informal stall. The conference was also attended by a number of other UNISON members in a variety of capacities.

After September 2002, as a result of what appeared to be a shift in the Service Group Executive’s priorities, this work was discontinued.

Community development practitioners are employed in a range of occupational sectors so, in order to represent them effectively, the Youth and Community Workers Forum needed to find ways of networking across and beyond the service group. Besides, UNISON is involved in community development in other ways – particularly through the self-organised groups – and there are links with policy areas including asylum and tackling the far right. Legislation and policy initiatives relating to community planning, social inclusion and community empowerment enhance these opportunities.

Examples include UNISON Scotland’s involvement with Beyond Barriers, a project to challenge discrimination and prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The need to share information within UNISON about such projects is reflected by a decision of the last National Lesbian and Gay Conference to collate and circulate information about such initiatives from regional and branch lesbian and gay groups.

Conference therefore regrets that the Service Group Executive allowed the Youth and Community Workers Forum’s original initiative to fall by the wayside. It urges the forum to revive it and it instructs the Service Group Executive to seek to ensure there are adequate resources to do so.