Cuts to social work services are putting lives at risk, says UNISON, as strike action looms

Social workers in West Dunbartonshire are gearing up for strike action amid fears the service has reached crisis point.

UNISON, the union for social work and social care staff in Scotland, met with the council again earlier this week to demand urgent changes to put an end to short staffing; excessive workloads and to provide greater access to services. Currently in West Dunbartonshire there are almost 250 unallocated cases in Children’s and Families social work services, putting lives at risk.

Simon Macfarlane, UNISON regional organiser, said: “This is unprecedented, our members are at breaking point and the service is on its knees. Our members have lodged a collective grievance with the council over the poor service that children and families have been receiving, unacceptable workloads and staff safety. These committed staff are going above and beyond every day to look after some of the most vulnerable people in our communities – the fact is these people deserve better, and so do social work staff.

“We’ve raised our concerns with the council on many occasions but still have no commitment to deliver the additional resources that are so desperately needed.”

As the talks have failed to deliver the urgent response and resources required, UNISON has today (Monday) initiated a consultative strike ballot among social work members at all levels.

Simon continued: “Strike action is not a decision our members take lightly, but the massive cuts to the service have resulted in an unacceptable workload and it’s children and families who are suffering. We’ve seen our members in tears as a result of the stress they are under. To have nearly 250 unallocated cases is absolutely shocking. Not only is it risking lives but it also means no early intervention work is being done so, by the time children and families get a service, things are increasingly at crisis point and the costs, time to address, and harm suffered have all escalated.

“The chief officer of the HSCP, the integrated joint board, the leader of the council and the chief executive of the council must take urgent action and deliver the immediate additional resources required. We need local leaders who will stand up the vital services our communities rely on, and for the dedicated staff who deliver them.”

UNISON will today (Monday) be writing to the Care Inspectorate which regulates social work services and the Scottish Social Services Council that regulates the workforce to lodge our concerns and make clear that our members’ registration should not be threatened by the unacceptable workloads and service levels in West Dunbartonshire.

Notes to editors

UNISON has met with the chief social worker on three occasions, most recently on Thursday, 21 March. At the meeting, UNISON called for:
• The immediate engagement of a minimum additional 6 agency staff who would be deployed to doing the full SW role;
• A firm offer to buy out TOIL in excess of 14 hours;
• An immediate improvement in access facilities in the Vale/Dumbarton area – including use of paid for spaces/cafes as appropriate and a commitment to restoring access to a suitable venue in the medium term (members were particularly concerned about the introduction of additional barriers to spending associated with facilitating access).

For further information please contact:
Simon Macfarlane, regional organiser, 07703 194132