Social Work

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2010 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 May 2010

Conference welcomes:

1)The Changing Lives programme of social work reforms in Scotland

2)The final report of the Social Work Task Force for England

3)The review of the roles and tasks of social work in Northern Ireland

4)The Social Work Task Group in Wales

Conference notes that the acute problems afflicting social work and qualified and unqualified social workers are now very well documented and include:

a)Stress and burnout

b)Staff shortages, vacancies and turnover

c)Bureaucracy and performance targets

d)Poor working conditions and IT problems

e)Lack of access to training and development

f)Lack of career and pay progression opportunities

Conference notes that while many of the reforms are well-intentioned, there cannot be wholesale change for the better without wholesale investment in social workers and social work services. Yet the reform programmes are getting underway at a time when the recession and the impact of the Baby Peter case mean that demands on our members and social work services are rising. At the same time we are seeing cuts to social care services on a massive scale.

Conference believes that if Social Work is to be ‘reclaimed’ by the Social Workers UNISON should adopt the following principles in seeking to influence the Government, Employers and Social Work Reform Board in the implementation of the Social Work Taskforce proposals:

i)To pressurise National and Local Government to provide the funding to enable the full implementation the Taskforce recommendations and to expose any shortfalls of resources and their consequences.

ii)To seek to prioritise the stabilisation of the social work workforce and obtain urgent improvements in working conditions as the basis for improving the quality of social work in the implementation of the reform programme.

iii)To continue to seek national and local agreements that set maximum workloads and the recognition of the recommendation of the Laming Review that there should be a national maximum workload for Social Workers.

iv)To seek the implementation of the proposed National system of career progression tied to a nationally agreed pay structure for Social Workers as part of the NJC.

v)To seek binding regulation upon Employers with strong enforcement powers by the relevant Regulatory body should agreed workload ceilings be breached

vi)To seek to ensure that frontline Practitioners and Service Users, including their representatives, are effectively represented within the structures of the Royal College of Social Work and to ensure that Employers, managers and senior local authority chief officers are prevented from controlling the College.

vii)To seek adequate resourcing for Professional Conduct hearings and seek further safeguards for Social workers facing complaints of Professional misconduct.

viii)To resist any attempts to create a professional trade union through the proposed Royal College including compulsory membership.

ix)To ensure that UNISON has a role in the proposed reform of Social Work education and CPD and to oppose further Employer control over content of Social Work education and training and in particular the ability of an employer to control the ability of a trainee social worker to gain their first ‘license to practice’

UNISON represents the vast majority of Social Workers over and above any existing professional associations or other trade unions organising in this sector and they significantly benefit from being organised in a national union alongside the wider social care workforce and other local government workers.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

A.Campaign for adequate resources for social work which truly reflect the demographic features and levels of deprivation of local populations, stressing the economic and social importance of good social work services

B.Campaign against cuts in social work services and attempts to replace social work jobs with cheaper alternatives, while recognising the key role played by unqualified social workers and other social care staff

C.Campaign for resources to provide secondments for training for unqualified social workers who will be unable to secure qualified status without them

D.Develop negotiators’ guidance on pay and grading structures for social workers which help keep practitioners in front-line practice to ensure our members are paid correctly for the job

E.To develop recruitment and organising strategy to maximise activity around social work and allied roles, targeting student social workers and newly qualified practitioners as well as social workers and team managers

F.Develop UNISON policy and guidance on remodelling of social work teams to ensure we protect the interests of qualified and unqualified social workers and support staff

G.Continue to develop branch guidance and tools and monitor progress regionally and nationally to tackle: excessive workload, workload management, reducing bureaucracy, securing appropriate staffing levels, supervision, support, mentoring and consultation, for the whole workforce.

H.To encourage Regions with Branches to proactively engage with Employers over the local implementation of the Taskforce proposals and in particular use of the Health check as set out in the report.

I.Develop a new ten point charter of key demands on the implementation of the Task Force recommendations.

J.To encourage Regions with Branches to proactively engage with and influence the introduction of the proposed Probationary year in employment and programme of CPD, including the use and development of Union Learning Rep’s in this role.

K.To provide detailed advice and training for local negotiators.

L.To develop a strategy, in collaboration where possible with other trade unions and professional associations, to challenge the increasing lack of ‘due process’ at the General Social Care Council conduct hearings and to continue to develop specialist ‘professional conduct’ expertise and representation at conduct hearings at a national, regional and local level.