Thursday, 30 June 2011

‘Care before cost’ says UNISON as it urges the Scottish Government to save St Philip’s

UNISON Scotland will today make an urgent plea to the Scottish Government to put care before cost and to reconsider its decision to close St Philip’s secure unit.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

‘People, not processes, will deliver real change’: UNISON response to Christie

Wed 29 June 2011

‘It’s people, not processes, that will deliver real change’ – says UNISON in welcoming the bottom-up approach to public service reform outlined in a report today by the Christie Commission.

The commission’s report on the future delivery of Scotland’s public services, chaired by Campbell Christie, emphasises the importance of workforce development and enabling staff to work with users to develop solutions to better service delivery.

UNISON, Scotland’s largest public service union, representing 165,000 members, also welcomed the report’s recommendations to retain Scotland’s partnership approach to public services, in contrast to the marketisation of services in England.

One of the biggest ideas to come out of the report is service integration – an approach which mirrors the views of UNISON – with recognition that this should be developed around democratically elected councils and community engagement.

Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary, said: “Staff are key to public service reform and their contribution must be central in the proposed transformation of service delivery. After all, it is people, not processes, that will deliver real change.

“While the report recognises the importance of a committed workforce, it is vital that staff are empowered to make changes to services and that their experience is valued and respected. This must go hand-in-hand with support from management and a clear understanding of shared outcomes.

“Our approach has always been to put the service user at the heart of delivery and this report echoes these views. However, while engagement with people and communities is important, there are limitations of this approach to certain services and it must not be seen as a replacement for mainstream services. We also need to avoid undue fragmentation of service delivery that will weaken service integration.

“We particularly welcome the report’s emphasis on tackling inequality, not just because of cost, but because more equal societies do better on all counts. However, if change is to be achieved, then staff must be given freedom to design the service they deliver and the Government must be willing to invest the time, effort and resources to allow meaningful engagement with staff and users to take place.”


Notes to editors

1. The report by the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services, chaired by Campbell Christie, former General Secretary of the STUC, can be viewed at

2. For a more detailed UNISON view of the report, see our briefing on the Christie Commission report (pdf) at our briefings page
3. For UNISON’s view of public service reform, see our Public Service Reform briefing from January 2011 (pdf)


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Stick up for the public sector on BBC The One Show Facebook site

We would like lots of people to post messages on the One Show Facebook site sticking up for the public sector and the pensions campaign.

The One Show did a piece yesterday featuring Katie Hopkins - the former Apprentice contestant, who hates the public sector.

She made some strong statements – public sector workers are cosy, lazy, enjoy big benefits and are wrong to strike. Karen Jennings did an interview, but this was severely clipped. The ‘debate’ with the the Gloucester City council workers was not set up by us and they did not get much of a chance to get their view across.

Please can you forward this link far and wide and get people to post.

You can see The One Show from yesterday at the BBC page here:


Sunday Herald: Scottish union leaders' statements on defending pensions

From Sunday Herald 26 June

Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser UNISON, was one of several union leaders asked by the Sunday Herald to comment on pensions. Dave said:

UNISON Scotland welcomed the statement by Finance Secretary John Swinney that increased pension contributions will place an unnecessary burden on public service workers who are already suffering from pay restraint and rising living costs.

He also correctly identified the damage these plans will do to the Scottish economy, undermining consumer confidence and the fragile recovery. These additional contributions are not necessary to fund pensions in Scotland; they are simply a ‘tax’ on staff to pay back government debts that were raised to bail out the banks.

This is not simply a UK issue. The Finance Secretary must face up to the challenges facing Scottish workers and not blindly follow the ConDem coalition’s plans. Only the NHS and teachers costs are scored against Barnett, although the Treasury would like him to levy on other schemes. However, that would simply be a Scottish ‘tax’ on members of the local government scheme.

The NHS scheme is a ‘pay as you go’ scheme with contributions and benefits paid out of revenue. In the last three years, net cashflow has been around £2 billion (positive) in each year. The Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme is a funded scheme, in good financial health, to the extent that no increased contributions are likely to be required over the next few years.

UNISON has a credible track record of constructive negotiation in Scotland over pension reform, but Hutton [the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission under Lord Hutton] did not recommend a 50% increase in contributions. That is a Treasury cash grab with not one penny going to Scottish pension schemes. It will inevitably lead to staff opting out of pensions, as Hutton himself has recently warned, with serious consequences for benefits and public spending.

The Scottish Government can and must find a better way by working with the trade unions to examine all the available options to avoid this disaster...

Full statements here (free registration needed)

Monday, 27 June 2011

Public services poem raises the roof at Glastonbury

In the latest stage of the union’s campaign against the Tory’s hard and fast public spending cuts, UNISON, the UK’s largest public services union, commissioned a poem from the poet in residence at Glastonbury festival.

General Secretary Dave Prentis said of the hard-hitting poem For the People, By Tony Walsh, aka Longfella:

“We are using every means possible to get the message out there about the huge dangers the Tories pose to our society, our economy, and to our public services. Tony’s rousing poem highlights the injustice of cuts, which hit the poorest hardest, at the same time as the bankers carry on pocketing billions in bonuses.”

The full poem is here

This is a short extract:

...And so this is for the people who stood up for our conditions

Through the centuries of injustice and the Tory opposition And so this is for the people and their strikes to get us welfare

Win equality and dignity, win us pensions and our health care

And so this is for the people who fought hard until they died

Against the poverty and indignity of working people’s lives And so this is for the people who campaigned for women’s rights

For contraception, votes and childcare, equal pay and all those fights

And so this is for the people who remember in our bones How we fought against injustice and the right to decent homes

And so this is for the people who are turning in their graves

At the assaults on their advances for a dignified old age And they think we don’t remember this! They think that we’ve forgotten! And swap centuries of progress for their fast race to the bottom...


Thursday, 23 June 2011

UNISON Scotland welcomes Lord Hutton’s warning on pension opt-outs

UNISON Scotland has welcomed Lord Hutton’s warning to ministers that punitive pension reforms will force people out of public service pensions.

His concerns echo those of UNISON, Scotland’s largest union in public services, who claim proposed contribution increases of 50 per cent are not only unfair but completely unaffordable and will leave members with no option but to leave pension schemes. Mass opt-out will also see more cuts in public services, as employers will face increased national insurance contributions for each worker not in the pension scheme.

Recent surveys have already shown that more than 50 per cent of staff will opt-out of pension provision if contributions are increased much above current levels.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said: “We share Lord Hutton’s concerns and know that many of our members, particularly low-paid women workers, would have no choice but to opt-out of pension schemes if contributions are increased. These increases would not only place a further burden on our members during a period of pay restraint and rising living costs, but mass-opt out of schemes would place increased pressure on welfare benefits, leaving the government with longer term costs.

“Public service workers should not be left to pay the price for bailing out the bankers and the UK and Scottish Governments must heed Lord Hutton’s warning and work with trade unions to examine all available options.”

For more information on Scottish public sector pensions see UNISON’s briefing at

UNISON urges Scottish government to save St Philip’s secure unit from closure

Thu 23 June 2011

UNISON, Scotland’s biggest union in the community and voluntary sectors, has urged Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to urge a rethink about the closure of a secure unit for vulnerable boys in North Lanarkshire.

Union organisers along with representatives from the board and management team of St Philip’s met Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill yesterday (Wednesday) to discuss the implications of the secure unit not being awarded a contract to provide secure provision.

The decision will force the closure of the unit unless the government reconsiders its decision.

St Philip’s received notice on Friday (June 17) that it had not been awarded a contract to provide secure provision, meaning it will no longer be able to receive referrals from the courts and Children’s Panel.

St Philip’s provides secure, residential and education facilities for young men. While all three types of care are provided at the St Philip’s campus, the withdrawal of funding for the secure unit has left St Philip’s facing a cross-campus closure and 259 staff facing the axe.

Simon MacFarlane, regional organiser for UNISON, said: "UNISON has met with the Justice Minister, however, he seems unwilling to reconsider the review of the secure estate. He was also unable to offer any hope of temporary employment for the dedicated staff who work at St Philip’s who, at the very least, want to be able to aide the transition of these vulnerable young people to a new facility.

"Our members include low-paid female workers through to staff in the senior management team – none of who will find gaining alternative employment easy in the current climate. If the minister is unwilling to review the closure of St Philip’s then he must look at providing enhanced redundancy payments, which would offer a small cushion while members look for alternative work.

"We appreciate the efforts of Labour’s Siobhan McMahon, central Scotland list MSP, who has raised concerns over the impact of the site’s closure on these vulnerable young men, our members and the wider community. We hope the Government will listen to our concerns before it’s too late."


Notes to editors

1. St Philip’s, in Plains, is one of three units run by voluntary organisation the Cora Foundation. The unit currently supports 18 young men who reside within the secure unit and many others who attend the residential and educational facilities on St Philip’s campus.

2. For further information contact Simon Macfarlane, regional organiser, on 07703 194 132, Janet Stewart, area organiser, on 07958 121 120, or Trisha Hamilton, communications officer, on 0141 342 2877 / 07939 478 461.

A global response to global attacks

UNISON will add an international dimension to its fight against public sector cuts.

Tribute to Norrie Steele January 1931 - June 2011

Conference heard the sad news this morning of the death of Norrie Steele on Tuesday evening. Current and past Scottish secretaries Mike Kirby and Matt Smith paid tribute to Norrie.

Tools to build an organising union

#uNDC11 UNISON agreed a wide ranging strategy to promote the organising agenda within the union as a basis for effective campaigning to face current and future challenges.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

UNISON welcomes Scottish Government recognition of unfair attack on pensions

Wed 22 June 2011

UNISON Scotland has welcomed a statement by Finance Secretary John Swinney that increased pension contributions will place an unnecessary burden on public service workers who are already suffering from pay restraint and rising living costs. The Finance Secretary told the Scottish Parliament that this would also damage the Scottish economy, undermining consumer confidence.

UNISON welcomes this recognition from the Scottish Government of the unfair and unnecessary attacks on public service workers’ pensions by the UK coalition government.

However, the union claims he must face up to the challenges facing Scottish workers and has urged him not to blindly follow the ConDems plans.

The union has also questioned the Scottish Government’s figures. Only the NHS and teachers costs are scored against Barnett and John Swinney claimed that was £230m. The Treasury would like him to levy on other schemes up to an apparent total of £400m. However, that would simply be a Scottish ‘tax’ on members of those schemes. In particular, the fully funded LGPS does not need additional contributions.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said: “We welcome the Finance Secretary’s recognition of these unfair and unnecessary attacks on public service workers. These additional contributions are not necessary to fund pensions in Scotland, they are simply a ‘tax’ on staff to pay back government debts that were raised to bail out the banks.

“The NHS scheme is a ‘pay as you go’ scheme with contributions and benefits paid out of revenue. In the last three years net cashflow has been around £2 billion in each year. The Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme is a funded scheme and is not scored against Barnett, so the Scottish Government needs to clarify its intentions regarding increasing contributions there to meet the Treasury’s expectations.

“UNISON is prepared to negotiate with the Scottish Government over the Hutton recommendations; however, a 50% increase in contributions will wreck quality pension provision as well as being unnecessary and unaffordable by our members. The UK and Scottish Governments must find a better way and work with trade unions to examine all available options to avoid large scale opt-out that will wreck the schemes and leave both governments with longer term costs.”


Notes to editors

1. While primary pension legislation is a reserved matter for Westminster – including the state pension scheme and taxation – public service pension regulations are devolved. This includes the important aspects of scheme design, including pension contributions.

2. The Pensions Commission chaired by Lord Hutton made 27 recommendations in relation to public service pensions. Lord Hutton did not make a recommendation on the size of any employee contribution increases. The UK Government are proposing a 3.2% increase on top of the current average contribution of around 6.4% of pay – that’s a 50% increase.

3. Surveys show that over 50% of staff will opt-out of pension provision if contributions are increased much above current levels.

4. For more information on Scottish public sector pensions see
UNISON's briefing for MSPs (pdf)

5. For further information contact Dave Watson, Scottish Organiser for UNISON, on 07958 122 409, or Trisha Hamilton, Communications Officer on 0141 342 2877 / 07989.

Our paramedics need their proper meal breaks - UNISON

Wed 22 June 2011

UNISON, the union representing ambulance workers in Scotland, has hit out at ill-informed criticism of paramedics’ meal breaks.

Paramedics, along with other NHS staff, work 37.5 hours per week, with an additional 30 minute unpaid meal break each day. During these short breaks it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that adequate staff and resources are in place to cover these periods. However, statistics from the Scottish Ambulance Service show a greater increase in the number of 999 calls, than in resources.

David Forbes, regional organiser for UNISON, said: “Ambulance crews are rushed off their feet in most areas and, like all employees who work for longer than six hours a day, ambulance staff are legally entitled to an unpaid, uninterrupted break.

“Paramedics and technicians can choose to waive the right to undisturbed meal breaks for an annual payment of £250, however, the vast majority have chosen not to do so and greatly value this short, unpaid break.

“Ambulance work is very demanding and our members deal with life and death decisions day in, day out. That’s why it’s so important that staff are given a break during what are often long shifts, not only for the health and safety of our members, but also for their patients.”

The union is currently in discussions with the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Scottish Government to establish a way forward that meets the needs of both patients and staff.

He continued: “Our members are dedicated to providing the highest standards of care to the people and communities in which they serve and we are currently in negotiations with the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Scottish Government to establish a way forward that continues to provide the best care for patients and also a fair deal for our members.”


Notes to editors

1. Scottish Ambulance Service statistics show a bigger increase in 999 calls than in resources.

2. Paramedics, along with other NHS staff have, since the introduction of Agenda for Change, a standard working week of 37.5 hours which equates to 7.5 hours per day, 5 days per week with an additional half hour unpaid break each day.

3. In addition to this contractual right, the Working Time Regulations allow for every worker to have 20 minutes away from their workstation after 6 hours work.

4. For further information contact David Forbes, regional organiser for UNISON, on 0131 226 0059 or 07985 121 397.

Public service pensions - UNISON briefing to MSPs

UNISON Scotland has sent a briefing to MSPs on public service pension contributions in advance of the Cabinet Secretary's statement to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon. In particular it clarifies the devolved aspects of this issue.

Whilst the attack on pensions comes from the UK Government, scheme design, including contributions, is a devolved issue. We have urged the Scottish Government not to give in to pressure from the Con-Dem coalition. The finances of the Scottish NHS and local government pension schemes are strong, so there is no need for an additional contribution increase. This is simply a 'tax' on workers who are already suffering pay restraint and rising living costs.    

These themes were taken up by UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis in his speech in Manchester yesterday, he said: 

"To those who say name the day, I say a day won't be enough. To those who say, negotiate, I say anytime, anywhere, for as long as it takes. To Danny Alexander. Boffin or buffoon? He may have done us a favour. The world now knows what they're about. A 50% increase in pensions contributions – not a penny into the pensions funds. A 50% reduction in benefits. All workers to work longer, and if you happen to be privatised – well tough. You can't take it with you. And to add insult to injury, 300,000 women finding out on the radio that their state pension age will go up, yet again, to 65, then to 67, and more. They will lose thousands. And it's daylight robbery."

There has been some misleading media comment on opinion polls in relation to public support for strikes over pensions. For a more balanced analysis see Liberal Conspiracy. For example,
Populus found 54% of people agreed that strikes were a legitimate way for unions to protect the pay and conditions of their members. Only 18% of the public disagreed. Even the much quoted Comres poll included the question “Public-sector workers are right to take strike action over maintaining their pension plans” – 48% agreed. 36% disagreed and 16% were unsure. 

Didn't see these figures in the mainstream media today!

UNISON Scotland briefing (pdf):

Briefing to MSPs on public service pension contributions

ore on our pensions campaign:

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

UNISON President tells conference: 'Now it is time to fight'

Date Tue 21 June 2011

UNISON President Angela Lynes, from Glasgow, called on delegates to join together to fight the cuts during her speech to the union’s national delegate conference today (21 June).

The admin officer, who works for Glasgow City Council, warned that public sector workers are taking hits from all angles by the Government’s cuts agenda and that the economy will struggle to recover.

Angela Lynes said:
“Our activists are giving huge amounts of their time and energy over to defending our members at their hour of need and working to halt the destruction of public services.

“On a deadly serious note, the attacks on our members have been unprecedented, both in their intensity and in their number.

“We are under assault on a number of fronts. On pensions, the Government is determined to hit us with a triple whammy - they want us to pay more, work longer and then get less when we retire.

“The economy is being dragged back towards recession by a chancellor, who refuses to accept the need for a Plan B, despite all the evidence that Plan A is not working.

“There is a refusal to listen to the pain experienced by our sisters and brothers in Greece, Portugal and Ireland, where austerity has simply driven the economy into an ever-deeper crisis.

“Instead, growth has stalled and is even stopping the Government from hitting its own deficit targets.

"Counter-productive, self-defeating and wrong - and the effect is felt every day by real people. Unemployment is huge, homelessness is on the rise and spiralling inflation has meant that the poorest are once again the hardest hit.

"But it doesn’t stop there. One of the ways the Government thinks it can save cash is by parcelling as many of our services off to the private sector as possible.

“Last year at conference I said that our mantra should be, ‘never show your fear, always show your fight’. Well, this year the fear is evident - now it is time to fight.”


Reports from UNISON's National Delegate Conference taking place in Manchester from 21-24 June 2011 can be found here: 

New SCCS film marks 2 year birthday of climate change law

The world leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 is two years old. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland has made a short film to show to campaigners for similar legislation in other countries how members, including UNISON, helped shape the Act.

Monday, 20 June 2011

We've fought long and hard for equality. It is not a privilege. It is a right

#uNDC11 The disproportionate effect on women members of cuts in conditions was highlighted to Conference by Scotland’s Margaret Ferris.

Mileage rates must reflect the cost of using car

#uNDC11 Local Government delegates backed a call from Aberdeenshire and Cymru/Wales to continue to campaign for mileage allowances for members across the UK that properly reflect the cost of using their car on employers’ business.

Resources to fight for living wage

#uNDC11 Local Government Conference threw its weight behind a Scotland call for a national living wage.

Conference Briefing: Care integration: Postcode lottery - or local services for local needs?

#uNDC11 Motion 45 on Social Care integration with Health from Scotland, coming up on Monday, was written in the context of Labour’s pre-election plans in Scotland for a National Care Service - but the principles still stand as politicians look to re-shape these cash-starved services.

They are not your services to sell, UNISON tells politicians

#uNDC11 Local public services are best provided by locally accountable local authorities and public bodies. This was reaffirmed by delegates to Local Government Conference who committed the union to supporting branches to mount robust campaigns against privatisation and outsourcing.

Cuts hit rural areas particularly hard

#uNDC11 The particular difficulties facing rural communities because of cuts to funding for local authority services was highlighted by South West Region and backed up by Highland's Liz Mackay.

We must win the biggest war on the welfare state we have ever faced

#uNDC11 Local government conference laid out a wide ranging and comprehensive strategy to fight cuts to public services and the welfare state.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Pensions: We need to be ready to fight says Stephanie Herd

As even Michael Portillo was saying that Danny Alexander’s pensions comments were ‘provocative’ while talks were still going on, UNISON Local Government delegates backed a 13 point campaign to defend our pension scheme.

Friday, 17 June 2011

UNISON welcomes delivery of M74 project early and under budget as in-house success

UNISON, Scotland’s largest union in public services, has hailed the M74 project – which was delivered early and under budget – as an ‘in-house’ success.

The project to extend the motorway was managed by public sector workers, many of them UNISON members, and was delivered without the use of private finance initiatives. The financial benefit of in-house management is clear, with the project estimated to cost between £15 and £20 million less than budgeted for.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said:

“We welcome Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil’s praise of the project and agree that this is indeed the result of robust and effective management by our members. This is an excellent example of in-house management, while working in collaboration with the private sector.

“There is a mistaken view among some politicians that privatising services improves service delivery and saves the taxpayer money – this project proves that this is simply not the case.”

Chris Stephens, UNISON’s Land and Environmental Services convenor, said:

”Our members are pleased to get recognition for their hard work in delivering this complex infrastructure project which will benefit the people of Scotland. This sends a clear message that when it comes to the delivery of major projects like this – public works.”


1. The project to extend the motorway to link the end of the M74 at Fullarton Road junction and the M8 motorway west of the Kingston Bridge on the south side of Glasgow is due to be open on June 28.

2. UNISON’s Public Works campaign highlights the excellent value for money that quality public services deliver. Prosperity and sustainability depends on further investment in the public sector, supporting recovery from the economic crisis, not targeting cuts at those who did not cause the crisis. For more information on our campaign to protect public services, visit

Public sector pensions – UNISON response

Commenting on Danny Alexander’s announcements on public sector pensions, Mike Kirby, UNISON’s Scottish Secretary, said:

“It’s a real shame that Danny Alexander has seen fit to make these inflammatory announcements through the media, while we are still in the middle of detailed negotiations with both the UK and Scottish Governments.

“Many public sector workers do very physically demanding jobs - expecting paramedics to carry patients into an ambulance at 66, 67 or even 68 is a danger to themselves and patients. And the same is true for nurses, midwives, bin men, road cleaners and many more.

“We want public sector pension schemes to be fair, affordable and sustainable which is why they were renegotiated only a few years ago.

“Taking the low paid out of the pensions’ increase is nothing but sugar coating, and those on modest wages will have to pay more.

“This ill-informed attack on public sector pensions has nothing to do with a pensions deficit and everything to do with making public sector workers pay to clean up the financial mess left by the city bankers.”

Thursday, 16 June 2011

UNISON sounds alarm bells over cuts to secure units for vulnerable young people

UNISON Scotland is urging the Government to think again about its plans to cut funding to the country’s secure units for children.

ALEOs: getting it right?

Audit Scotland has published a report on Arm's-length external organisations (ALEOs) this morning. There are now more than 130 ALEOs in Scotland running a range of public services. The number of leisure trusts has doubled in the past decade.

The report claims that ALEOs can offer benefits over traditional in-house services. These include 'flexibility' and reduced costs. But they also warn that councils remain accountable for the use of public funds and poor governance is a cause of concern. The report sets out good practice guidelines on how councils establish and deliver services through ALEOs, including accountability for finance and performance.

What the report omits are some of the real reasons for establishing ALEOs. In the main, the driver is tax dodging and avoiding equal pay responsibilities. ALEOs also offer an opportunity to avoid public scrutiny and accountability. None of these are appropriate motives for a democratically accountable council.

Most ALEOs were established with a range of fanciful claims about income generation and new services. Very few have delivered and this report makes no real effort to measure the claims and compare that with what has actually been delivered. That would have been a more useful exercise to inform councillors considering this approach.

This was apparent in 2006 when UNISON Scotland published an analysis of leisure trusts. That analysis still holds good today. ALEOs simply add to an increasingly fragmented service delivery environment, when we should be focused on integrating services around common outcomes.

UNISON bullying survey reveals real impact of cuts

The shock findings of a UK-wide UNISON survey shows that almost one in three Scottish workers have been bullied, or witnessed bullying, over the past six months.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Public service factories are not the key to reforming public services, says UNISON

UNISON, Scotland’s largest public service union, today warned of the high cost of setting up ‘public service factories’ in a bid to save councils cash.

The union said shared services are not providing the answer to modernising public services and warned that services will suffer as a result of the top-down approach to change.

Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said: “Co-operation between public services is essential, but that doesn’t mean setting up vast public service factories or bringing in the private sector. Shared services are often pushed by private consultants as a way to improve services and save money. However, these schemes come with huge upfront costs and evidence shows that initial savings are not delivered in many cases – so we would warn against the belief that there is a pot of gold to be released through shared services.”

The drive towards shared services, both within organisations and between them, is based on economies of scale and a view that front and back office functions should be separated. However, there is increasing evidence from the UK and internationally that this approach is wrong. Few services actually delivered in this way have realised the claimed savings and real costs are simply displaced onto frontline services. There is also a massive increase in transactional costs as systems drive activity rather than addressing user demand. UNISON believes services should be organised so that staff who meet users are able to deal with most of their needs, without artificially splitting the work up.

The union has also been critical of the Clyde Valley Review, which has involved no consultation with either trade unions or with the staff who deliver services.

He continued: “Bright ideas are never the result of discussions which take place in a darkened room. For positive changes to happen, managers have to adopt a bottom-up approach and involve staff in decision making.

“Job concerns are sometimes hailed as the reason for shared service failings, however, this is simply not the case. We fully support partnership working and efficient delivery of services, however, we are sceptical as to whether this type of shared service will deliver savings and, most importantly, whether it will deliver a better service.”

See the Briefing at

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Care privatisation - time for change

The revelations in last night's Panorama of abuse at a private residential unit has shocked the nation and rightly led to police arrests. Whilst this was a particularly shocking episode, concerns over care provision have rarely been out of the news in recent months. Examples include:

  • The collapse of Southern Cross care homes is a potential tragedy for residents and staff and has highlighted the economics of the private care home industry. The Financial Times has provided a clear analysis and described this as "The shameful state of the UK care homes"; commenting that "Private care providers seeking to maximise profits are tempted to cut back on the spending needed to provide the best possible care for those vulnerable people in their charge."
  • The Elsie Inglis care home in Edinburgh closed after the death of a resident. The home was being investigated by Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (SCSWIS) who said they had “serious concerns” about standards of care.
  • Today's Guardian publishes an open letter from mental health groups over the impact of welfare benefit cuts. "The government's changes to the welfare system are having a "devastating" impact on hundreds of thousands of people with mental health problems and have driven some of the most vulnerable to try to take their own lives, according to charities and medical experts."
  • Last night's Newsnight Scotland highlighted massive increases in care charges. Disabled persons groups said that these charges were being used to finance the Council Tax freeze.
  • Councils across Scotland are privatising homecare in response to budget cuts. The scandal of the "15 minute care visit" was highlighted in an earlier Panorama programme.
  • The personalisation agenda, whilst an appropriate solution for some groups, is being adopted as the new 'one size fits all' approach to care. It is being used in several areas as cover for budget cuts. It is also being used to drive further privatisation. 
These stories highlight a crisis in the care industry and we are drifting into a privatised service without any real public debate. With a growing elderly population these pressures will not go away. It is surely time to call a halt to privatisation and undertake a detailed review of the future of care.