Tuesday 17 June 2014

UNISON is the union for social workers

#uLGC14 Delegates backed a call from City of Edinburgh Branch to mount an awareness raising and recruitment campaign on the issues for members raised by the contempt of court proceedings in Scotland, and had welcomed UNISON’s actions in Scotland to protect and advise members and to press for legal changes.

Moving the motion, Edinburgh’s John Stevenson told delegates that the problem stems from a legal system that thinks only grown ups have rights.

“Imagine you have a law in Scotland that says the child’s welfare is paramount? Well we do?

“But imagine if the judge says that doesn’t apply in contempt cases? No need to imagine. That happened too,” he said.

“But the end result is that we must not allow this to force defensive practice. We must not allow children to suffer for fear we will be done for contempt.

“UNISON did not just stand up with legal help. It stood up to defend our members’ professionalism. This is the union for social workers,” said John.

This was echoed by Kate Ramsden from Aberdeenshire, whose members, including a council solicitor, also faced contempt proceedings, “for doing their job and doing it well.”

She spoke of the impact on social work and other practitioners. “No longer can we feel confident that because we are acting as agents of the council and following procedures that we will be protected.... however much we can justify it in welfare terms.”

However, like John, her main concern was for the impact on children and their rights to have their welfare put first.

“We know that in practicing more cautiously and taking decisions more carefully, we are allowing bad situations to go on for longer and we are less willing to take risks that could put ourselves at jeopardy even if that would be best for the child.”

Kate added that this highlights the vulnerabilities of staff working in this field if they don’t have a union behind them, “And not any union, one that understands the practice issues and will provide legal and other support – UNISON .”

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