Adult social care

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2023 National Local Government Service Group Conference
16 February 2023

Conference notes that the adult social care system in England continues to face an existential crisis and that the UK government’s proposed ‘reforms’ have done little to address this. Its white paper on the future of adult social care in England fell well short of anything transformative – doing nothing to tackle the marketised nature of adult social care – a system based on a fragmented, competition-driven provider market – and nothing to deal with high levels of unmet need and a fragile provider market.

And it said nothing meaningful about improving pay and conditions for care workers or about addressing the very high vacancy rates in the care sector. Unsurprisingly, vacancy rates have continued to rise, reaching 13 percent for care workers in England in December 2022, as reported by Skills for Care.

The outsourcing and privatisation of social care has led to deteriorating services and the widespread exploitation of workers through low pay, zero hours contracts and attacks on our members’ pay, terms and conditions while generating huge profits for hedge funds and shareholders.

Conference welcomes the UNISON campaign for a National Care Service that brings about consistent standards of care and consistent terms and conditions for the workforce. It also welcomes the continued work undertaken by the Local Government Service Group Executive (in collaboration with other UNISON structures) to promote UNISON’s Ethical Care and Residential Care Charters. It recognises that the charters include important provisions relating to employment conditions, equality and service delivery.

As acknowledged in the motion ‘LGBT+ workers and Adult Social Care’ adopted at 2022 Local Government Conference, there is roughly a fifty/fifty split in the numbers of adults receiving social care between those who are retired and those of working age. There will be a significant number of LGBT+ people who are, or will be, users of adult social care. Some will be disabled and/or retired LGBT+ UNISON local government service group members

Anecdotal evidence suggests that LGBT+ workers are – and have always been – well represented amongst social care workers. However, they are often invisible. This may be an individual choice, or it may be a survival strategy. A workforce where LGBT+ workers are unable to be out at work is not likely to be one where workers can confidently meet the specific needs of LGBT+ service users, or even be aware that they have specific needs. This underlines the importance of negotiating robust best practice agreements on LGBT+ equality with employers, recognising and valuing diversity, alongside union organising and individual advice and representation.

Further, conference recognises that human rights based approaches to the delivery of public services, including social care, are fundamental to ensuring that LGBT+ people receive services that are free from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The adoption of human rights based approaches can also improve the working conditions of LGBT+ workers. It therefore notes with concern that the UK Conservative government appears intent on either repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) or even withdrawing from the European Convention of Human Rights (the Convention) which was incorporated into UK law by the HRA.

Conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

1)Continue to encourage branches in the service group to use the UNISON LGBT+ bargaining factsheets to review employer policies and agreements with employers with a view to achieving best practice on LGBT+ equality

2)Seek to work with the national self-organised committees, retired members committee and national young members forum to promote the Ethical and Residential Care Charters

3)Work in conjunction with the National LGBT + Committee and other parts of the union as appropriate to promote good practice on supporting LGBT+ workers and LGBT+ service users in social care settings to bodies responsible for the delivery and regulation of social care

4)Continue to campaign against the privatisation of social care and for services to be brought back in house

5)Continue to support the UNISON campaign for a National Care Service.