Supporting Social Care Staff

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2009 Local Government Service Group Conference
13 June 2009

This Conference affirms UNISON’s respect and support for the dedicated members in Social Care who provide care to the most vulnerable people in our society and welcomes the moves towards registration of Home Carers. This union believes that often the media and politicians from all parties are too willing to lay the blame for our society’s failures at the door of social care workers and social workers in particular, who struggle with strained resources, too heavy caseloads and poor management. When Government, Local Authorities and the private sector consider the most vulnerable in society as commodities to be processed and numbers contributing to targets, it is these ‘clients’ who are the victims when systems fail. But the hard pressed social care workers are usually in the front line when scapegoats are being sought.

However, UNISON wholeheartedly believes that the vulnerable people we serve must have confidence in the service provided and society is right to demand the highest standards of professionalism and integrity from social care staff. We therefore support the systems in place such as POVA , POCA and the soon to be introduced Independent Safeguarding Authority, which reduce risks and try to ensure the safety of vulnerable adults and children.

But in a climate when under resourced, fragmented services mean high profile and tragic failures, the pressure on our members in these services is immense. Whilst recognising the necessity of these safeguards, UNISON understands that often, when allegations are made against social care workers, they feel that they are considered ‘guilty until proven innocent’. The stress and humiliation which accompany those investigations into often unfounded allegations can in themselves be very damaging to our members.

Conference notes that The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) is a new public body which is being created with the intention of preventing unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults. From October 2009, all individuals working or volunteering with vulnerable adults or children will be required to register with the ISA. This will affect over 11 million people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland an aligned scheme is being set up under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG)(Scotland) Act 2007. Proposals on the implementation of the PVG legislation will be consulted on in late 2008 and it is expected to be very similar to the ISA scheme.

Conference notes that there are enormous implications for UNISON members. Many members will be required to register, and there is a proposed flat rate fee of £58 (Northern Ireland) and £64 (England and Wales), with no commitment to the cost being met by employers.

Conference believes that employees should not have to pay for an additional registration, especially as many already have professional registration for which they pay fees. The majority of individuals who will come under the ISA scheme are women, many work part time and a large number are low paid workers. It is unacceptable that they should bear this extra charge.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to work with the wider union to:

1)Develop a toolkit to help Branches in negotiations with local employers. The toolkit should be based on best practice, on how employers can best support staff whilst POVA and other investigative processes are taking place.

2)Develop a package, for Branches to utilise, of up to date advice and information about what support UNISON can provide for members during these processes.

3)Campaign for the costs of registration with the ISA and professional registration not to be borne by employees and for the ISA not to duplicate existing registration schemes

4)Provide advice to branches and bargaining groups on seeking agreements on meeting these costs and urges all branches to seek an agreement with employers

5)Survey all branches to identify which employers have agreed to pay these costs and circulate copies of any such agreements to all branches

6)Run a recruitment campaign around the ISA, urging nom-members to join UNISON to campaign to ensure jobs and service provision are not affected