Congress backed calls for improved resourcing for the criminal justice system.
This came in the form of a motion highlighting the unsustainable pressures facing the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. These have been worsened by the resulting backlog of court cases built up during the Covid Pandemic remained high and may not be cleared until 2026.
The motion highlighted overcrowding in Scotland’s prisons and the rising levels of violence against staff and other prisoners. It is against this backdrop that there is an ongoing drugs and mental health crisis.
Speaking on behalf of UNISON, Kate Ramsden started reminded congress that UNISON represented members in justice social work, a key part of the criminal justice team.
Highlighting the pressures faced by our members Kate stated that “The cuts, the lack of investment, the unsustainable pressures also impact on justice social workers. They have told us how cuts have affected them – as well as their colleagues across the justice system.”
“Our justice social work members have told us they feel there is a complete and utter lack of understanding about the sheer complexity of the job they do. A job that involves adults and children at risk and public protection – sometimes within the same case.”
“Justice social workers see the huge value of their role when they can do it well. When they can engage with their clients and build meaningful relationships with them. We know that vulnerable adults – care leavers, people with mental health and addiction problems, young adults with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, or who are neuro-diverse, are over-represented in the justice system and in prison populations
“If justice social workers are given the time and the resources to support these clients, they can help them make positive changes, supporting them to have a better future, reducing recidivism and protecting communities. They play a critical role in the criminal justice system.”
Supporting the call for a substantial increase in funding for criminal justice budgets across the board Kate also welcomed the PCS initiative in commissioning a report into all aspects of Scotland’s justice system. She stated that such work was urgently required but ought to include the voices of UNISON members working in justice social work.