Thursday, 17 June 2010

UNISON urges social work leaders to speak out on service cuts

UNISON will today (Thursday) urge social work service leaders to speak out about the impact of spending cuts on the most vulnerable.

Stephen Smellie, chair of the union’s Social Work Issues Group, is warning that major cuts in social care spending are being widely portrayed as inevitable, yet the consequences would be drastic.

He is on a panel looking at the future of personal and social care at a Holyrood Conference in Edinburgh on Personal and Social Care Provision.

Stephen will say:

“Many voices, from the Association of Directors of Social Work, to CoSLA, from the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition UK Government to media appointed commentators, are telling us jobs need to be cut, services need to be reduced and families need to do more for their sick, disabled, young and elderly relatives.

“We believe those who wish to lead the sector must be vociferous in explaining the very real consequences of budget cuts.

“They should be standing up for quality services and warning what could happen if deep cuts are made.”

UNISON members in social care already see care packages being reduced and they hear managers saying personalisation of services will save money.

In the private sector members struggle on wage rates barely above the minimum wage, with no guaranteed hours of work, while many voluntary sector managers are telling members that terms and conditions will be cut so they can compete for contracts.

Stephen will warn:

“Accepting the inevitability of cuts means telling families their 79-year-old frail mother will not get a tuck down service and will have a different home carer each morning.

“Lone parent families will lose out on access to professional advice and support as family centres and nurseries are no longer available.

“Social work users will see less of their under-pressure, over-worked professional social worker. That worker will have to spend more time assessing not the user’s needs but their bank balance, so the council can charge as much as possible for any support it provides.

“Social work leaders need to raise their voices beyond saying, ‘the options are to cut this or cut that’. They need to argue and fight for the services that so many vulnerable people rely on.”


Notes for Editors:

1. Stephen Smellie is speaking at the Holyrood Personal and Social Care Conference in Edinburgh on Thursday 17 June. Details and agenda are at: 

2. Stephen's full statement is at:

3. UNISON has an alternative budget for a fairer society at:

4. Details of UNISON Scotland’s campaigns and publications supporting the social work services workforce are at:


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