UNISON, Scotland’s public service union tells MSPs that Scotland's public services are living through a lost decade as a consequence of austerity economics and we can do more to protect public services.
Tomorrow (Tuesday 13 January 2015) the Scottish Parliament will debate protecting public services. UNISON Scotland's briefing to MSP's draws from our recent report 'Austerity Economics Don't Add Up', which charts the impact austerity economics is having on Scotland’s public services and the staff who deliver them.
In addition, UNISON has identified some common themes for MSPs from recent UNISON surveys of public service staff. They flag up consequences that are not often recognised including:
- The impact of cuts on service delivery and in particular on the most vulnerable in our communities. Social care is a particular concern with a race to the bottom in provision.
- Corners are being cut to give the impression that services are being maintained. Whether its food sampling, inspections, hospital cleaning or the time elderly people are allocated for basic care.
- Core infrastructure is collapsing while staff patch and mend. Sticking plasters won’t last forever.
- Preventative work is being abandoned as staff focus on the basic statutory functions.
- Moving staff around to manage one crisis after another. ‘Keeping the plates spinning’ is a very common comment from staff.
- Growing levels of stress and related health issues. A particular challenge for what is becoming an ageing workforce due to recruitment freezes.
- Delayering of structures results in quite junior staff having to take decisions, without adequate support from more senior and experienced staff.
- Cuts in support staff and administration results in front line staff having to spend more time on paperwork - exacerbated by outdated or inadequate IT systems.
- Increased aggression and violence from service users, frustrated by service cuts and delays.
UNISON Scotland’s Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, Dave Watson said:
“The overwhelming response from staff is that it’s bad now, but they believe it’s going to get worse. This is happening at a time when public service wages have been slashed in real terms placing significant personal pressures on staff.”
“We urge MSP's to recognise that there is a better way. Of course the driving force for austerity comes from the UK coalition government, but Holyrood doesn’t always make good choices. What is needed is the political will to challenge the view that austerity is necessary and to put in place better policies that deliver for all our communities.”
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Notes to editor
1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union. The MSP Briefing can be viewed here: http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/MSPe-briefing_PublicServices_Jan2015.pdf
2. Our report 'Austerity Economics Don't Add Up' can be viewed here: http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/publicworks/AusterityEconomics_Oct2014.pdf
3. Examples of the occupational surveys can be viewed on our Public Works page: http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/publicworks/index.html
· Dave Watson, UNISON’s head of bargaining and campaigns, 0141 342 2840 or 07958122409