Contempt of Court Attacks on Social Workers

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2014 Local Government Service Group Conference
6 February 2014

Conference is deeply concerned about recent events in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland where contempt of court proceedings have been brought against social work staff as individuals whilst acting in their social work role to fulfil their statutory duties consistent with their codes of practice.

Social work members have an overriding legal duty to ensure the child’s welfare is paramount in all that they do. However, it seems the paramountcy of the welfare of the children is not considered relevant during contempt proceedings. UNISON believes this constitutes a conflict of laws which places those working on the frontline in a very difficult and vulnerable position

The fact that individuals, rather than the organisation they work for, have been put in this position has wide-ranging implications for the employer/employee relationship and could have a ripple effect on all frontline workers. This Conference is concerned that this may also compromise the welfare of the children for whom our social work members are responsible.

Accordingly, Conference

1)Congratulates UNISON for providing legal support and standing by the members concerned. Without UNISON membership, some of these workers could have faced individual legal costs running into tens of thousands of pounds.

2)Welcomes the advice issued to members by UNISON City of Edinburgh Branch which has since been issued to all branches in Scotland.

3)Welcomes UNISON Scotland’s action in writing to the Scottish minister concerned to call for an urgent legislative review.

4)Resolves to continue to campaign for legal changes through UNISON Scotland’s Social Work Issues Group.

5)Agrees to mount an awareness and recruitment campaign among all social work and social care staff.