Social Care

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2008 Local Government Service Group Conference
12 June 2008

Conference condemns the continuing drive towards further privatisation and fragmentation of social care services but welcomes genuine initiatives to improve standards of care to service users. In this respect the use of personal care budgets as a source of greater independence and control for service users merits investigation.

However, Conference views with concern that this may be promoted in some quarters as a means of delivering cheaper social care or as a drive towards further privatisation. This has major implications for UNISON’s homecare members who could face redundancy or major changes to pay and conditions. This is in a sector where retention of skilled workers is already an increasing difficulty and may undermine the availability of services at the appropriate level to meet service users needs in the future.

Conference believes that proper regulation of care providers is more important than ever in the face of further waves of privatisation. Yet care regulators across the UK are facing budget pressures and efficiency savings. In England the future regulation of social care is uncertain in light of the forthcoming merger with the Healthcare Commission to form the Care Quality Commission.

Furthermore Conference notes that the introduction from Autumn 2008 of vetting and barring schemes for those who wish to work with children or vulnerable adults will have a major impact on social care across the UK. Key concerns centre on the cost of the scheme, the burden of proof, and vulnerability of our members to ill-founded allegations. Conference therefore calls on the SGE to work with other UNISON Service Groups to develop a co-ordinated policy and bargaining agenda to support members.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1)Campaign for a national framework on employment of personal assistants (i.e. carers employed directly by the person(s) they care for) covering pay, conditions, pensions, training, registration and vetting, to protect both service users and carers;

2)Call on local authorities to recognise their responsibility when setting personal budget levels for ensuring that service users can pay enough to recruit, retain and train high quality staff;

3)Call on local authorities to work positively to invest in and develop in-house services which support independent living and service user control – promoting the advantages when it comes to accountability and quality and preventing a shortfall where other sectors do not have the capacity to meet need

4)Work with service user organisations to resist attempts by local authorities to “disinvest” from services which people will continue to need;

5)Campaign for urgent action to address the funding crisis in social care;

6)Seek independent analysis of claims that personal budgets can deliver cost savings without affecting quality of care;

7)Campaign for adequate resources and robust inspection systems for care regulators, and for an increased focus on workforce issues in regulation;

8)Campaign for proper regulation of support brokerage including minimum quality and training standards; brokerage plays a key role in the personal budgets system and should be provided by properly qualified, regulated and accountable staff;

9)Lobby for agreed protocols governing monitoring of risk and accountability.

10)Work with other service groups on a co-ordinated policy and bargaining agenda on the new vetting and barring scheme in order to protect our members.