TIME TO TEAR DOWN WALL OF SECRECY SURROUNDING SOCIAL WORK
UK’s largest public sector union, has accused councils of fuelling
suspicion and undermining public confidence in social workers, by
barring them from speaking out in the media.
On the anniversary of the verdict of those involved in the tragic
death of Baby Peter, the union is calling on councils to get the
public to back social workers, by shining a light on their
day-to-day work. To restore confidence in social workers, the
public needs to be given the facts. Social workers deal with around
568,000 child referrals in the UK every year. Setting up a child
protection plan requires intensive investigation and work with the
child, the family and other agencies, including police and the
health service. Since the Baby Peter case, UNISON branches
report a 25% to 50% increase in the number of calls from the public
and agencies, reporting suspicions about child abuse or neglect.
This creates severe pressures on understaffed departments.
Helga Pile, UNISON National Officer for Social Workers, said:-
"Social workers have nothing to hide. Of course they observe
client confidentiality, but they should be allowed to play their
part in helping the public understand wheat they do and the
pressures they work under. But they are gagged from doing so by many
councils. That drives a wedge of suspicion between them and the
public. They work with some of the most vulnerable and troubled
people in our society - people who don't have a voice, and it's sad
that the professionals who work with them are prevented from having
one too. Councils could make a real difference by letting the
public see what front-line social workers achieve every day. “
Commenting on the impact of the Baby P case, Social worker A –a
Unison steward and children’s social worker, said:- "Despite
the difficulties the profession faces I continue to call myself a
social worker with great pride. Why? – because I can see the
positive impact of my work on the lives of the people I work with,
many of whom are some of the most vulnerable members of society. I
also witness the commitment and skilfulness of my colleagues as they
go about their work implementing interventions that change people’s
lives for the better.
For me the biggest impact of the baby P case was the very public
devaluing of social work generally as a profession. This left many
social workers, including myself, feeling dispirited, vulnerable and
annoyed at the way the work of so many dedicated and skilled
practitioners was rendered invisible. This has created a less than
positive atmosphere to work in and has led to more children being
taken into care.”
Social worker B, UNISON social work convenor in a county council and
a social worker said:- "Child protection and family support
social workers were condemned nationally at the time, but had no
direct way to respond other than to remain committed and dedicated
to their jobs. There has been a significant increase in referrals,
the general public are more aware of their responsibilities and
partner agencies are sharing information at an earlier stage. This
in turn has an impact on caseloads, personal stress and professional
As a workforce, social workers cannot publicise their successes but
as a profession they have remained dedicated and committed in the
face of the rising tide of referrals of an increasingly serious and
complex nature. As a workforce we need to be proud of what we do
achieve, recognise how much good work we are doing and how important
it is to work with other agencies to support and protect vulnerable
VOICE FOR SCHOOL STAFF GETS ROYAL ASSENT
major new negotiating body to be set up in the public sector for
around 30 years, has been given the royal assent. Around
700,0000 teaching assistants, nursery staff, administrators,
secretaries, policy officers, technicians, cleaners, special needs
staff, caretakers and school meals workers are covered by the new
body, which provides national guidelines for their pay and
Christina McAnea, Head of Education for UNISON, which represents
more than 250,000 school workers, welcomed the new body saying:-
“Today is, in a very real sense, an historic day. It is the first
time in almost 30 years that a major new national negotiating body
has been established and I am delighted school support staff are
being given a voice of their own.
For too long the vital contribution they make in sustaining children
throughout their school years has gone unrecognised and undervalued.
The body will oversee and ensure fair and equal pay alongside a
robust training and career structure to apply in all schools.”
DISCARDED TYRES BRIGHTEN UP ST VINCENT DE PAUL PRIMARY SCHOOL
St Vincent de Paul Primary School have restored their vandalised
allotment gardens thanks to Merseyside Police’s city centre
neighbourhood team and Tesco, Brownlow Hill.
Following an environmental clean up in the Canning area, Sergeant
Stacey Pope had the idea of recycling abandoned tyres by giving them
to the school to use as planters.
Merseyside Police had the tyres and the compost delivered to the
school, while Tesco, Brownlow Hill purchased seasonal seeds and
bulbs. Sergeant Pope, Constable Ian Middleton and Hannah Pilling,
manager of the Tesco store then went to the school and helped the
pupils from Class 2 plant the winter seeds, ready for a bright
Mr Stewart, Headteacher of St Vincent de Paul Primary School
comments:- “After the school’s allotment was vandalised, the
children were really upset. We're really pleased that with the help
of Merseyside Police and Tesco, we've been able to replant it. The
children from Class 2 had lots of fun on the day and really enjoyed
working with the police officers. Now the whole school is looking
forward to seeing the new plants bloom in the spring.”
The Class have now been put forward for a Blue Peter Green Badge for
being environmentally friendly and creative in the use of discarded
items which blight the community they live in.
Picture shows the staff, pupils, Sergeant Pope and Hannah Pilling
after planting seeds in the vandalised allotment garden.
CALLS FOR A MILLION AFFORDABLE HOMES TO BE BUILT OVER NEXT 5 YEARS
UK’s leading public sector trade union, is calling for a million
affordable homes to be built in the lifetime of the next parliament,
to help house the million plus families* who are on social housing
waiting lists. The call comes as UNISON launches research**,
at the House of Commons showing that councils are well placed to be
providers of affordable, eco-friendly homes that meet local needs
and boost local economies.
The report, written by the Association for Public Service Excellence
(APSE), reflects on the lack of new council house building***, and
shines a light on the changes needed to make council house building
a reality in the current economic climate. The report welcomes
recent government funding for new building programmes, but finds
that the future for publicly provided council housing is still
As an important step in the right direction, the union is calling on
the government to place a duty on local authorities to start a
public building programme for a new generation of council houses. If
remaining legal, technical and financial barriers are brought down,
says the union, longer term building programmes could shoot up.
Speaking at the launch, Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, will
say:- “Housing is one of the key components of our Million
Voices for public services campaign. Decent homes are a
pre-requisite for decent health, decent education and a decent
quality of life. One of the reasons we have record waiting
lists is because there are now one million fewer homes for social
rent than there were in 1979. The private sector is not building
homes, so there has to be a clear duty on the public sector to step
We want to see a million affordable homes built in the lifetime of
the next Parliament with local authorities having a far bigger role
in delivering those new homes. The APSE report shows
that with the political will, council housing can deliver a
significant number of the homes we need. Council housing is
good value for money. There are huge benefits to the wider economy
and to local economies by employing building workers. It can also
help prevent another housing and debt bubble by providing more
Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, will say:- “We have
been campaigning for years for councils to fulfil their
house-building potential and are pleased to see that politicians are
finally listening. While new funding opportunities offer a promising
start and a chance for councils to show what they can deliver, we
would like to see a more substantial programme to enable a whole new
generation of sustainable council housing in the future.”
The research found that:-
Need. There is a clear need for affordable housing, with one
million fewer homes available for rent from councils and housing
associations than in 1979. Councils are well placed to deliver homes
in a way that meets local needs.
Opportunity. There has been progress of late on addressing
barriers to council building. Recent opportunities for council
building in the form of the Homes and Communities Agency Local
Authority New Build programme and the Scottish government’s
programme are providing welcome resources for the fist time in
decades. But councils are well placed to be building in much more
significant volume. They are democratically accountable, have land
available, are familiar with planning policies, are credit worthy
and can deliver new homes in a way that meets a range of holistic
community needs and aspirations.
Vision. It is important to have political commitment and a
vision of what council building can deliver in terms of community
leadership and cohesion, sustainability and boosting local
economies, as well as providing much-needed affordable housing.
Programmes that are getting under way are high-quality, eco-friendly
developments in sustainable communities rather than high-volume, low
quality estates of the past.
Skills. Lack of skills and capacity is not an insurmountable
barrier as local authorities have vast experience of generic skills
that can be applied to house-building; such as project management,
sustainable development and partnership working.
The report recommends:-
1. The government should place a duty on councils to provide homes
in their local communities, in partnership with other bodies where
2. Remaining legal and financial barriers to council house building
should be tackled.
3. Government policy should be reversed to put local authorities
back into position as significant housing providers, allowing
council housing to grow to become a quality affordable option for
all, not just a safety net for some.
4. Councils need clear guidance and support in developing their
house-building capacity after decades during which they were denied
resources and opportunities to build.
5. A sustainable long-term approach to a new generation of council
housing is required, with adequate ongoing funding rather than a
‘quick fix’ approach.
6. The economic benefits of a new generation of council housing,
such as using Community Benefits Clauses to maximise economic
benefits and training opportunities, should be fully explored.
*There are currently 4 million people, 1.6million households on
social housing waiting lists in the UK, up from 1 million in 2001.
**The report, ‘A New
Generation of Council Housing: An Analysis of Need, Opportunity,
Vision and Skills’, was produced by the Association of Public
Service Excellence (APSE) for UNISON.
Council built 12 new council houses in 2006, making it responsible
for 10% of new council houses in England that year.
The report was published on Wednesday, 11 November 2009 in the House of
Commons, committee room 6 House of Commons. Speakers are:-
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON
John Healey, Housing Minister
Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive, APSE