Headlines: April 3rd, 2003

Scottish social workers are backing a series of demands which their union says are designed to address problems facing the service, including shortage of staff, increased stress and reducing levels of support as well as the increased risk of violence.UNISON Scotland has launched a campaign document detailing the problems and ways it believes they should be tackled. The pamphlet, ‘The future for Scotland’s Social Work’, presents a grim picture of a service trying to cope while under growing pressure. It highlights staffing problems affecting residential and home care as well as the more publicised difficulties faced by children and family services. The pamphlet has been released as part of the union’s ‘Revitalise Our Public Services Campaign’.

Stephen Smellie, chair of UNISON’s social work issues group, said all staff from qualified social workers to social work assistants were meeting problems caused by the large numbers of vacancies, increased stress and reduced support. These were leading in turn to lack of back-up, increasing risks of violence, no time being available for training and more pressure being put on unqualified staff.

“Pay is a key issue in addressing such problems, but not the only one. We think we need a full-scale review to look at training, the job of social workers and other staff, protection and other support,” he said.

UNISON says it has already raised its demands with the new standards body (the SSSC), the local authorities and with government ministers and that it will continue to campaign for a full review to address all the problems that it says are threatening social work services and the staff who provide them.