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DATE: 28 July 2008

Edinburgh Children's Social Work risks meltdown - UNISON

UNISON has called an emergency meeting of Edinburgh Children & Families Social Work staff for Monday 28 July to respond to re-organisations and cuts which the union says could mean 'meltdown' for the service.

Following cuts in the 'Working Together' service, a new consultation would see a cut of up to 50% in the number of key front-line team leaders responsible for child protection and 'looked after' children, and reductions in managers who oversee and supervise these services.

"These front-line staff are the people who have held the service together for years, often despite the Council, and certainly without the resources to do the job. Without them, the service could face meltdown. All of the progress made since the O'Brien Inquiry is at risk from these plans", warned Tom Connolly, UNISON Edinburgh Branch Service Conditions Officer.

In addition, UNISON understands there is not enough money in the budget to cover the existing 143 front-line Social Workers who carry almost 4,000 child protection, looked after children and children in need cases.

"It looks like the Council has told the public it is putting more resources in, while in reality it hasn't backed it up with the cash".

"On top of this two recent inspections point to not enough cases being allocated and not enough resources to protect children. Instead of addressing the resources, the Council is increasing demands on staff. Many of our members feel things are getting worse than they have ever been and more risky than they have ever been.

"The inspections criticised a lack of early intervention, so, astonishingly, the Council cut the early intervention services in Working Together. The Council's response is totally divorced from the reality on the ground. They are just not listening - again", added Mr Connolly.

Three years ago, the Council had a guideline of 19 children per Social Worker. The Council then acted on recommendations following the Victoria Climbie Inquiry and promised to reduce the workload to 14 children.

"The reality is that, since then, caseloads have gone up with staff carrying well over 20 cases. Now they want them to carry even more. The Council seems determined not to learn from inquiries or inspections and that beggars belief", added Agnes Petkevicius, UNISON's Edinburgh Branch Secretary.

UNISON will consult its members on Monday on a formal response and has not ruled out industrial action to protect them from the dangers of unmanageable caseloads in such high risk work.





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