Speakers Kate Ramsden and Naomi Junnor: Conference showed just why social work and social care workers need UNISON as it backed a range of measures demanding safe staffing levels. The union will call on all the UK governments to review staff numbers and introduce regulations to force employers to report staff levels and vacancies annually.
It also raised concerns about social workers being named in reports which will add to the abuse staff often face due to the negative portrayal of the profession in the media and TV dramas. It was not only a concern for staff but also for people who may need services.
Kate Ramsden from Aberdeenshire branch and a member of UNISON Scotland’s Social Work Issues Group, reminded Conference she had spoken last year about the two of our social work members, working in children and families social work in Edinburgh, who had been convicted of contempt of court: “Just for doing their job. For placing the welfare of two young children as paramount.”
“These workers were forced to defend themselves as individuals, not agents of their council”, explained Kate.
“If they had not been members of UNISON they would have had to pay for their own legal counsel – though to be fair, their council did pick up the tab.
“The impact of the contempt ruling was devastating not just for the workers concerned but for all of us who work in Children and Families social work.”
More contempt proceedings against staff followed. Guidance was issued to support workers “but there’s no doubt that it left workers and councils risk averse”, said Kate.
Conference applauded as Kate told delegates: “I am delighted to report that in March, on appeal, the Court of Session quashed the contempt ruling against our two members.
“But not only that, in their ruling they re-established the principle that the child’s welfare is paramount.
“We were delighted with the outcome – not just for our members but for all those vulnerable children whose care and welfare are entrusted to us. How important was it that UNISON could speak up for them?”
Glasgow branch’s Naomi Junnor underlined the role of austerity in cutting staffing levels and increasing caseloads, constant system changes and the workforce micro-managed.
“The number of cases being allocated is reaching dangerous levels which has pushed Glasgow City housing workers to breaking point”, said Naomi.
The effect of cuts is that the very principle of these services is under threat.
Naomi told delegates: “I want to see our members be able to pass on to their children and their communities the right to take for granted these vital services that have served us for over 50 years.”
The fight against austerity was the key to protecting staff and services.