Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Social Work Task Force

Chris Tansley is one of the region's reps on UNISON's Social Care forum and he has written about the Social Care Task Force report that was released today. The report sets the scene for the future of social work and it is vital central and local government make the funding available to enable the report's recommendations to become reality. Chris Tansley's report is below.

There’s a lot to be welcomed in the task force recommendations released today (1st December) and a lot that mirrors what we’ve been saying in UNISON since the Laming report.

We said to the task force and to the minister, Ed Balls, that the high vacancy levels of social workers meant that those that were employed were carrying dangerously high caseloads.

We also said that the IT system brought in at Laming's recommendation was cumbersome and taking up to 70% of social workers time – time which would be better spent working with the children and families they were responsible for.

UNISON has been saying for years that we need a new grade of senior practitioner to prevent our experienced social workers having only the option of going into management if they wanted to improve their pay.

All of these issues are outlined in the report and Ed Balls has given his commitment to implementing them in full.

The task for us all in social work is to ensure that they are implemented jointly with UNISON representatives at a local level.

These recommendations cannot be done on the cheap. They will require real resources if they are to succeed. This comes at a time when finance in the public sector is in crisis. We need the Government to match their words of support with increased funding specifically aimed at implementing the proposals.

The setting up of a National College of Social Work did not form one of UNISON's proposals. We have been saying for several years now that the image and status of social work needs to be radically improved but we remain sceptical that a National College will just become a distraction from the real issues facing social workers. What matters to social workers is that they get the improvements to their working conditions and career progression in their workplaces.

We also need the Government to build on the start they’ve made in putting the message across that our social workers need to be valued for the great work they do in our communities with vulnerable children and families every day of the year. Perhaps then it will be a career of choice again and social workers can say that they are proud of the work they do.

For the Task Force Report see here.

Chris Tansley

Chair - UNISON National Social Care Forum

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