SASW statement on West Dunbartonshire social work "crisis"
In recent weeks we have become aware of issues raised by social workers within West Dunbartonshire council. These relate to staffing and safety which impact on workers and on the services that they provide. New information has come to light over the weekend in relation to a child within the local authority being left to sleep on a sofa for three months at a residential unit.
The use of couches in emergencies has become more common in local authority residential units, though this is usually only for a night or two on a weekend. This is due to capacity issues with cuts in the number of residential places and private and secure residential places in Scotland being increasingly used to accommodate young people from England. This kind of situation - where a sofa is used for months at a time - is unnacceptable. Staff have acted appropriately in bringing this to the attention of managers and authorities.
We know that workers within West Dunbartonshire, supported by UNISON Scotland, have voted overwhelmingly for strike action. We hope they get a fair hearing which leads to positive results for workers and for users of services.
We know from our members that an increasing number of social workers across local authorities and health and social care partnerships are experiencing similar issues as those in West Dunbartonshire, in relation to overwhelming caseloads and staffing shortages. In August 2018, Bath Spa University and the Social Workers Union carried out research into working conditions and wellbeing for social workers across the UK. This found that compared to the UK average, working conditions for social workers were worse than 90-95% of other employees in both public and private sector occupations.
SASW is campaigning for improved working conditions in Scotland. This includes meeting with politicians and others who can influence better ways forward. Ultimately, the funding constraints which are currently in place will not allow social workers to do the job they were trained to do. Social workers work tirelessly to enable people to make the changes necessary to lead better lives. As the professional association, we are fully comitted to advocating on behalf of our membership and raising any issues they face.