Social workers reject government reforms as unsafe, says UNISON

Social work reform survey report

Government plans to reform the delivery of children’s social care have been overwhelmingly rejected by practising social workers in a new report published today (Wednesday) by UNISON.

UNISON says the proposals could prove dangerous for children and fail to tackle any of the fundamental problems social workers deal with on a daily basis.

UNISON says the proposals do not address high caseload levels, a lack of resources or high turnover rates of staff that are hampering social workers’ ability to do their jobs effectively.

Just 1% of social workers questioned by UNISON believe the government’s reforms address the main concerns they face.

The government wants to give councils the power to set up social work trusts, which could be exempt from some legal duties ­­­­­­– including safeguarding and housing children currently deemed to be at risk.

Establishing trusts may also lead to the privatisation of social work as they would operate outside local authority control, a move leading to children’s care being driven by the market, rather than need, says UNISON.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It seems the government is hell-bent on undermining social services in England. It’s bad enough that there are not enough social workers, or resources to deal with increasing demand. Now ministers are attacking the very legal framework that keeps children safe and secure.

“The proposals mean there would be no national system for looking after children at risk. Whether children get the care they deserve could depend on their postcode, rather than the legal protections hammered out over decades.

“The safety of our children is one of the most important responsibilities of government. But these plans show painful lessons from the past have been forgotten by ministers who are now prepared to withdraw essential protection from those least able to help themselves.

“The government is squandering an opportunity to make genuine improvements to vulnerable children and social work services by failing to engage and listen to the profession.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON’s report, Social Work Reform in England is available here
– The Children and Social Work Bill includes proposals to exempt local authorities from:
o Any legislation specified in Schedule 1 to the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 relating to those under the age of 18
o Sections 23C to 24D of the Children Act 1989
o The Children Act 2004
o Any subordinate legislation to the above.

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