21st Century Social Work Review

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2005 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 February 2005
Carried as Amended

Conference notes the many initiatives that have taken place and are ongoing in Scotland in relation to the development of Social Work. These include:-

1)The establishment of the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and Care Commission

2)The introduction of the 4-year Social Work degree and the “fast track” schemes for postgraduates

3)The Care in Scotland campaign

4)The National Workforce Task Group and the 21st Century Social Work Review

We note and welcome the fact that these have resulted in progress towards the registration of the workforce, an increase in the number of qualified social workers, progress towards creating a qualified workforce, a draft Workforce Development Plan and the identification of a number of important factors addressing the public profile of Social Work that require to be addressed in order to enable social work and social services staff to be able to deliver quality services to the communities of Scotland.

Conference notes that UNISONScotland has for a number of years argued for a full review of Social Work and recognises that many of the issues that we identified as reasons for a review are now being addressed or at least considered. We also welcome the opportunity for UNISON to contribute to and participate fully in these various initiatives and developments and to establish effective levels of communication with the Scottish Executive, the SSSC, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) and the Association of Directors of Social Work (ADSW).

Conference notes that whilst the difficulties of recruiting and retaining qualified Social Workers has attracted most media and political attention UNISON has explained that this cannot be addressed without also looking at the position of the Para-professionals (Social Work and Care Assistants for example) and the Administrative Support teams who work alongside them. We have also sought to highlight the issues that affect the delivery of services across the full range of social work.

Conference welcomes the decision of the Scottish Executive to withdraw its proposal for a Single Correctional Agency. This is an example of effective campaigning where we presented positive views on how to improve on the current position as well as opposing the Executive’s proposal and of our ability to network with a wide range of other similar minded organisations.

Conference also notes the positive and practical role that UNISON has played in supporting the development of the workforce not only through representation and participation but also through the provision of Return to Learn programmes throughout the country targeted at social care staff.

Conference commits to continue this positive approach to progressing the interests of our members in Social Work but notes that the following issues still need to be addressed:

a)The question of pay for all social care staff. The current competition between 32 local authorities to recruit and retain Social Workers is unhelpful. The continuing scourge of low pay within Social Care continues to create recruitment and retention problems throughout residential, day services and home care. We therefore call upon CoSLA to recognise this problem and to address it effectively in conjunction with UNISON

b)Social Work members have seen their workloads increasing in order to meet increasing demands from service users and the legislation. Levels of stress and violence to staff continue to increase. The union will continue to press for effective workload management and support for all staff in order to alleviate these problems

c)Training for all staff is of increasing importance in order to ensure that staff can achieve the requirements for registration and continuous professional development. While funding has been made available this needs to be increased and secured for the long term including sufficient funding for cover to allow staff to be released for training

d)The image of Social Work presented by the media and some politicians continues to focus on negatives rather than celebrating the many positives. We still see examples of the “blame culture” and a failure to appreciate the reality that where social work can minimise risk in people’s lives it can never eradicate it. Whilst recognising efforts by the Executive and others to address this, much more needs to be done. UNISON should continue to engage with the media to promote the progressive role played by our members in supporting the most vulnerable groups in society and the extremely stressful situations that they work in

e)The challenges of the diversity of service delivery across the public, independent and private sector, through mixed economy provision and joint service initiatives. There is a continuing need to emphasise and promote the primary responsibility of local government in the provision of Social work services

f)Social Work remains under funded. Recent cuts in the Supporting People Funding have underlined this. We call on the Scottish Executive to commit to an ongoing increase in funding to the levels necessary to meet the needs of communities.

Whilst recognising these particular developments and devolved powers in Scotland we recognise that the issues we are addressing are the same throughout the UK and that developments elsewhere can impact on Scotland. We also recognise that there is merit in maintaining a common value base to Social Work across the UK and notwithstanding the commitment to devolution a common approach to many of the issues. Therefore Conference commits to developing greater sharing of information and improving liaison with colleagues throughout the union. Conference therefore welcomes the initiative taken by the Service Group Executive to establish the ‘Four Countries Social Care Group” and agrees that further work to establish improved joint working should be planned by that group in conjunction with the National Social Services Forum

Finally we recognise that many of the problems in society that social work members work with every day have their roots in the poverty and social exclusion that continues to effect communities across the UK. As such Social Work cannot solve these problems. UNISON will continue to campaign for policies to be introduced that lift people and communities out of poverty, provide access to services for all and ultimately builds stronger communities.