Tuesday 17 June 2014

UNISON - Speaking up for Social Work, supporting radical practice

Scotland’s Social Work Issues Group (SWIG) hosted a very successful Fringe Meeting following Local Government Conference on Sunday, entitled “Challenges for Social Workers and the art of radical social work today.”
Chaired by Kate Ramsden, the audience of around 70 delegates, heard from Helga Pyle, National Officer for Social Care, and from SWIG’s John Stevenson and Colin Turbett.

Helga kicked off with a summary of the key findings from the UK UNISON report “Social Work Watch: inside a day in social work” which had been launched that week.
This gives personal accounts of the tough day to day life of social work staff across the country on one day earlier this year. Helga said that the difficulties that social workers face are fuelled by official figures showing that councils cut spending on social services staff - from social workers to care assistants - by £746m (adults) and £147m (children) between 2010/11 and 2012/13, as central government cut more than £5 billion from the grants it made to local councils.

“The impact of the cuts on children and adults is revealed in stark reality as social workers struggle to support and protect those in need against all the odds. Overall 61% of those surveyed said that their ability to make a difference day to day was affected by cuts to budgets and resources.

“However 72% of those surveyed were also able to describe one thing that they had done that day to make a difference in the lives of their service users, demonstrating the commitment and passion that our members have to do their job and to do it well,” said Helga.

She added that UNISON is calling for a range of measures to stop unnecessary suffering, but success hinges on a reversal of swingeing budget cuts.

“ They may create short term savings, but at far greater cost both financially and socially in the longer term," she warned.

John Stevenson then spoke about the new challenges facing social workers and other council employees working with children and young people in Scotland, describing recent cases where Sheriffs are using contempt of court legislation to call social workers to account as individuals rather than “agents of the council,” when their only “crime” has been to act to place the welfare of the child as paramount.

Although councils in Scotland have stood by our members, “in the first days of these cases, it was UNISON alone who was there for these members.

“It was UNISON who was the first to issue guidance in light of these development and it was UNISON that took the issue to the Scottish Government seeking measures to stop individual workers being singled out personally for doing their job,” said John,

“And because all these workers were trying to do is what the law requires them to do – put the welfare of children first – it is UNISON that is raising the issue of that conflict in law.

Colin Turbett closed the session with a presentation based on his book, “Doing Radical Social Work.” This gives practical advice on how social work staff can work ethically in a time of austerity.

“It’s not really radical in some senses,” said Colin. “It’s what we would have called ‘good practice’ when many of us did our training.”

He emphasised the importance of being good at what we do and also the need for good supervision and workload management and of creating positive cultures to work in, at a time when managerialism dominates many workplaces.

There was a great deal of audience participation as they queued up to ask questions and seek answers for their particular challenges. There were calls once again for every Region to have a Social Work Issues Group and for there to be a UNISON Social Work Newsletter issued to branches with social care members.

No comments:

Post a Comment